Late Goal Helps Canada Survive Latvia Scare
SOCHI -- Hours after the host Russians lost on the same ice surface, Canada survived a scare at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Wednesday.
Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber scored a power play goal on Canada's 54th shot of the game to break a 1-1 tie at 13:06 of the third period and give Canada a 2-1 win against Latvia in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The game was a showcase for Latvian goaltender and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Kristers Gudlevskis, who not only turned aside 55 Canadian shots but had to remain alert with the puck in the Latvia zone for long stretches of the game.
Canada opened the scoring at 13:37 of the first on Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp's first of the tournament, but Latvia answered with a beautiful breakaway goal by Lauris Darzins at 15:41.
From that point on the Canadian assault on the Latvian net began, but Gudlevskis consistently refused to budge.
While the victory may have been a relief for Canada, there was a price to pay.
New York Islanders center John Tavares left the game in the second period with an injury after he took a hard hit from Latvia defenseman Arturs Kulda and struggled to get back to the bench before eventually leaving for the dressing room.
He did not come out for the third period.
As Canada has done in each of its games here it allowed a few quality chances in the first few shifts. But it was Pittsburgh Penguins teammates Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz that had the best ones before the game was five minutes old when Kunitz sprung Crosby for a breakaway that was stopped by Gudlevskis and then Crosby set up Kunitz with a wide-open net but he hit the post.
It didn't seem at the time either play would be important. But as the game moved into the third period tied, even though Canada was ahead in shots 35-11, there was a sense the two early missed chances could become very significant.
Sharp opened the scoring on a nice play by Rick Nash behind the net as Nash set Sharp up for a one-timer into a largely empty net.
But the Latvians struck back, led by their captain Sandis Ozolinsh, who found Darzins alone behind the Canadian defense pair of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester from the St. Louis Blues. Darzins, a former teammate of Weber's with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, beat Canadian goaltender Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens with a move worthy of a star NHL player.
Darzins faked a shot, moved to his backhand and lifted one right under the crossbar for his fourth goal of the tournament.
Gudlevskis kept his team in it, but it looked as if Canada finally got one past him at 8:27 of the third period.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews grabbed a rebound of a Drew Doughty shot and shoveled it toward the crease. It looked as though the puck squeaked through and was heading over the goal line when Latvia defenseman Kristaps Sotnieks swiped it away with his glove.
The play was called no goal on the ice and it withstood a video review to keep the game tied 1-1.
Less than five minutes later Weber scored his third of the tournament on a slap shot.
It gave Canada a 2-1 lead.
And a pulse.