HALIFAX – Pal Grotnes is a name Team Canada won’t soon forget. The Norwegian goalie played the game of his life this afternoon at the Metro Centre only 18 hours after his team surprised Germany, 3-2, but it wasn't quite enough today as Canada eked out a 2-1 win.
Grotnes stopped 51 of 53 shots while his teammates fired just 16 at Pascal Leclaire. Rick Nash was the hero making an end-to-end rush and finishing with the tie-breaking goal with just 3:58 left in regulation time.
The result ensures Canada stays atop Group F with nine points and Norway remains in third place with four points. It was the 13th straight win for Canada in World Championship play dating back to last year's perfect 9-0 run. The game today, however, was a scary reminder of May 1, 2000, in St. Petersburg when Norway shocked the Canadians by a 4-3 score.
"We're really disappointed today," offered Norway's Mathis Olimb. "After a while, we really expected a lot from ourselves because we were playing so well."
Mike Green and Nash scored for Canada and Mads Hansen for Norway before a solid but mostly quiet crowd that, no doubt, expected a much higher score.
"It took a little bit longer to pick up our game and find a way," Green said, "but they made it tough on us. They played a great defensive game and made it hard to penetrate because of their system."
Norway lined up along centre ice, didn’t forecheck aggressively, and protected their goalie by getting in the way of as many pucks as possible. Still, the puck was inside Norway’s blueline for much of the game until Canada ran into penalty trouble midway through the third period.
Mike Green got the crowd going at 9:32 of the first on the power play. Brent Burns took a shot that went wide but caromed off the back boards onto Green’s stick. He moved the puck in front, waited for Grotnes to commit, and drilled a perfect wrist shot over the goalie's glove for a 1-0 Canada lead.
The 14-3 shots totals for the first period accurately reflected Canada’s domination. Indeed, the only time the Norwegians had the puck in Canada’s end was on their two power-play chances, neither of which yielded a good scoring chance.
The Norwegians had a great chance to tie the game midway through the second when Per-Age Skroder had the wide open side of the net and Pascal Leclaire sliding the other way, but he fanned on the shot.
Moments later, the one-piece stick made perhaps its worst appearance in international hockey. Rick Nash had a breakaway from centre ice, and just as he was about to rip a shot, his stick snapped in half, one piece sliding into the net (no goal) and the other between his skates.
The Canadians tried one cutesy pass after another, creating some exciting plays, maybe, but no goals. All the while, Norway was one shot away from tying the game. In the middle part of the period Canada had four consecutive power plays, but still they couldn’t beat Grotnes a second time. Full credit also goes to the Norway penalty killers who kept Canada at bay.
And then the incredible happened. Defenceman Duncan Keith was pokechecked at the Norwegian blueline by Mads Hansen, and he skated in alone, deked Leclaire, and swept the puck into the net to tie the score before Keith could chase him down. The short-handed goal was a stunning turn of events given the domination by Canada to that point. Shots after two periods were 34-10, but the score was 1-1.
Canada had a 5-on-3 for 51 seconds early in the third but could do nothing with the glorious chance, and then it was the Canadians who were whistled for a string of five straight penalties that had the fans howling with protest, followed by enthusiastic chants of “Let’s go Canada, let’s go!” It was their liveliest outburst of the game.
"The penalty kill really took the momentum away from them," said Chris Kunitz. "Getting into penalty trouble really doesn't get your best players involved, but we found a way."
"We really should have gotten at least one goal," Olimb agreed, "but they played really well in front and took away our chances. That's what happens when you play really good teams."
Finally, at 16:02, Rick Nash made an end-to-end dash on the power play. He drove down the left wing, cut hard in on goal, and squeezed the puck inside the far post to give Canada a 2-1 lead it richly deserved but hadn't yet achieved. It was Canada's 50th shot on goal to just 16 by Norway.
"It all comes down to desperation," Green suggested. "We really needed a goal badly. It was a great play by Nash--he always seems to find a way. That's the great player he is."
Canada’s next game is against Germany on Saturday afternoon while Norway meets Latvia on Sunday afternoon.