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OLYMPICS

Canada's hockey team gets what it wants early with victory

Its rout of Germany, 8-2, sets up matchup with Russia, which had been anticipated to be grand finale.

February 24, 2010|By Helene Elliott

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada — Redemption was at hand as the Canadian Olympic hockey team was about to polish off an 8-2 rout of Germany and advance to the playoff quarterfinals, so the crowd at Canada Hockey Place was feeling giddy Tuesday.

A cry arose from the stands, loud and proud:

"We want Russia! We want Russia!"

You sure about that?

"Good idea," affirmed Canada's captain, Scott Niedermayer.

The question is whether he and his teammates will still think it's such a great notion Wednesday, after they face the powerful Russians in a matchup that was projected to be the Olympics' grand finale but was moved up by Canada's preliminary-round loss to the U.S. and consignment to a qualifying playoff round.

"It's a big rivalry and something people were talking about before the Olympics," said Sidney Crosby, who was stymied on a penalty shot in the second period but scored Canada's fifth goal, on the redirection of a pass from Eric Staal at 1:10 of the third period.

"I expect it to be a pretty incredible atmosphere," Crosby said.

Canada looked solid Tuesday against Germany, which has a scattering of NHL players and an NHL goaltender in San Jose backup Thomas Greiss but isn't deep enough to seriously challenge elite teams.

Goalie Roberto Luongo, anointed Canada's starter after Martin Brodeur's flawed performance against the U.S., stopped 21 shots Tuesday and didn't get hurt.

New linemates Jarome Iginla, Crosby and Staal combined for three goals and three assists, each of the four lines scored at least once and defensemen Niedermayer and Shea Weber each contributed a goal to ease Canadians' national anxiety over the team's stumbles last week.

"It's nice to get rewarded for playing well," Crosby said. "We said coming into this game that it wasn't a game we expected to play but we got the results we wanted."

But now comes the real test against Russia, which earned a bye to the quarterfinals by routing Latvia, losing to Slovakia in a shootout and defeating the Czech Republic. In that last game, Alexander Ovechkin slammed Jaromir Jagr to the ice with stunning ease, a physicality that's sure to be a part of Russia's game again. The winner will go to the semifinals against the winner of the game between second-seeded Sweden and Slovakia, a 4-3 winner over Norway late Tuesday.

"I'm sure he's going to hit one guy, if not more," Crosby said of Ovechkin. "It's going to be tough. It's going to be a battle. I don't think we're going to be intimidated."

Luongo, comfortable in the rink he calls home with the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, said the game against Russia will rank among the biggest of his career. "Hopefully," he said, "it's not the biggest one this week."

In the first playoff qualifier, goalie Jonas Hiller of Switzerland and the Ducks stopped two of three shootout attempts to give his team a 3-2 victory over Belarus and a quarterfinal berth against the U.S.

Switzerland fell behind in the first period but pulled even on a power-play goal by Julien Sprunger and went ahead on a power-play rebound swatted in by Canadian-born Hnat Domenichelli, who plays in the Swiss Elite League.

Domenichelli, who played in the NHL for Hartford, Calgary, Atlanta and Minnesota, said he's hoping for a low-scoring game and that Hiller will compensate for Switzerland's overall lack of size and depth.

"Two things will be big: the team that has the great goaltending and the team that finds a way to get the power play going," he said.

Forward David Krejci of the Boston Bruins scored 5:10 into the 10-minute overtime to give the Czech Republic a 3-2 victory over Latvia and a berth in Wednesday's quarterfinals against fourth-seeded Finland.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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