Team Canada’s gold medal dream got one step closer to fruition after a 3-2 semi-final win over Slovakia on Friday at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Ryan Getzlaf scored the game-winning goal and Robert Luongo came up with a spectacular glove save in the final seconds to preserve the win for Canada.
Getzlaf scored a power-play goal from his knees after a rebound from a Corey Perry shot fell onto his stick and he quickly shot the puck past Slovakia goaltender Jaroslav Halak at the 16:54 mark of the second to put Canada up 3-0 at the time.
Luongo, who was not tested very often until the third period, was able to get his glove on a Pavol Demitra shot from close in during the dying seconds to keep Canada ahead.
The atmosphere at Canada Hockey Place as Team Canada stepped onto the ice was at a fever pitch as the team entered to a thunderous ovation to open the game.
Brendan Morrow nearly opened the scoring for Canada in the opening two minutes but fired the puck just over the crossbar with Halak beaten.
Through the first ten minutes, Slovakia did its best to quiet the crowd by clogging up the neutral zone, forcing Canada to rely on dumping in the puck to enter the zone.
Patrick Marleau broke the deadlock at 13:30 of the first period after tipping in a Shea Weber wrist shot from the point past Halak to make it 1-0 for Canada.
A review of whether the puck had been tipped by a high stick was conducted by the referee but the goal stood as called.
Morrow doubled Canada’s lead as he tipped a Chris Pronger point shot past Halak at 15:17 to make it 2-0 for Canada.
Canada out shot Slovakia 10-4 in the first period.
“We just kept going at them and got some tips on net,” Marleau told CTV during the first intermission.
Marian Gaborik led a pressure filled start by Slovakia in the second period that caused Canada’s Drew Doughty to be penalized for hooking at the 1:29 mark of the second.
Slovakia’s top ranked power play was unable to take advantage of the opportunity with Canadian players blocking several shot attempts.
Dan Boyle came close to giving Canada a 3-0 lead but his tipped shot hit Halak’s shoulder and went over the crossbar.
Richard Zednik’s holding the stick penalty at 16:34 of the second sent Canada to the power play and they would capitalize on the opportunity quickly through Getzlaf.
Constant pressure by Slovakia in the third period caused the Canadian defence problems and it felt like it was a matter of time before the Slovak pressure paid off.
Slovak defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky cut the Canada lead to two as he streaked in from point and banked a shot in off of Boyle and past Luongo at the 11:35 mark of the third.
Sloppy defensive zone coverage by Canada allowed Michal Handzus to score off a rebound from a Zednik wrap around opportunity at 15:07 of the third to cut Canada’s lead to 3-2.
Handzus would come close to tying the game in the dying minutes but was stopped by Luongo as the Slovaks fiercely pressured the Canadian zone in the final five minutes.
Both goaltenders were kept busy as Halek stopped 25 of 28 shots for Slovakia while Luongo stopped 19 of 21 for Canada.
Power play opportunities were scarce as Canada went 1-for-2 on the power play while Slovakia went 0-for-1.
Coach Mike Babcock and the Canadian team will now seek revenge against the United States in the gold medal game after suffering a a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Americans in round robin play.
Goaltender Ryan Miller has led the United States to an undefeated record including a 6-1 semi-final win against Finland earlier on Friday and was the difference in the first meeting between the teams.
Coverage of the gold medal game will begin on Sunday, February 28 at 12:15 PST.