"It’s nice that our power play was really clicking, and that’s good that we’re hitting our stride at the right time," said Jordan Weal, who scored two of Canada's four power-play goals and added an assist. "I really like the way our group’s playing right now. We were really resilient and pushed through. Sweden is a different level of competition and something we’ve got to prepare for really quickly here."
Third generation Team Canada forward Adam Tambellini was the star of the show for the winners, scoring twice and adding two assists. Just like that, he is now the leading scorer in the tournament with three goals (tied with three others) and seven points (tops). American Sean Farrell has six points.
"It's nice to contribute, really good to get our power play going and hopefully we're peaking at the right time here and moving into the quarter-finals," Tambellini said. "We've got to give them a lot of credit. They pushed really hard. They had us on our heels at times in these two games, but I really liked the way our group was resilient and pushed through."
Goalie Matt Tomkins was rock solid, stopping 27 of 29 shots, and almost certainly has earned the start against Tre Kronor.
An Jian (Cory Kane) scored both goals for China, which scored only four times in as many games.
"I’m really happy that we were able to fight 'til the end," Jian said. "It’s really hard when you’re going up against a top opponent like Canada. They’re really good, but our guys didn’t quit."
"They were tough," said Canadian forward Eric O'Dell. "We knew they were going to come out hard but I think we just kept our composure and played well. I thought “Tommy” [Tomkins] played great. We just went period by period and maybe we came out a little slow but we just built off of that second period goal by goal and we had a good game."
Coach Claude Julien spread the ice time evenly, and only Owen Power (20:33) had more than 20 minutes in the game. On the other side, China's coach Ivano Zanatta used defender Ruian Sipulaoer (Ryan Sproul) for nearly half the game (29:20).
Despite the win Canada looked disorganized at times, no more so than in the first few minutes of the game. But Tomkins was sensational in the early going, keeping Canada in the game on several occasions. An early breakdown allowed Taile Wang (Tyler Wong) to break in on the goalie, but Tomkins made a great save. Soon after, it was Jaing Fu (Spencer Foo) who had a clear chance, and this resulted in a delayed penalty shot. The Chinese had possession for nearly 90 seconds before Canada touched the puck, and Fu tried to beat Tomkins five-hole with the freebie but was stopped again.
Three great saves finally ignited Canada, which started to penetrate the Chinese end more effectively. But at the other end it was Jieruimi Shimisi (Jeremy Smith), who matched Tomkins, stoning Mat Robinson from in close and then captain Eric Staal. Canada finally got the opening goal at 6:57 on the power play. A series of wild shots and bouncing pucks finished when Jordan Weal smacked a loose puck in to make it 1-0.
Three minutes later, Canada doubled its lead on a two-man advantage. Weal finished the play again, with a bit of luck. Staal fired a cross-crease pass to Weal, and his quick shot bounced off defender Jie Liu (Jason Fram) and in. Canada continued with a one-man advantage, but the best scoring chance was had by China on yet another giveaway. The Chinese went in on a two-on-one but An Jian (Cory Kane) was stoned by Tomkins.
China finally scored a well-deserved goal at 15:32 off a giveaway by Owen Power deep in his end. Trying to corral a loose puck with one hand on his stick, he was checked by Ruike Wei (Ethan Werek), who got the puck to Jian. Jian made a quick move and roofed a backhand for the goal. Soon after, on another power play, Jiang Fu had a glorious chance to tie the game, but Tomkins was that little bit better with his blocker.
In the dying seconds of the period Smith injured his knee and was forced to leave the game. Yongli Ouban (Paris O’Brien) was forced to start the second and was challenged almost immediately, and Canada made it a 3-1 game at 6:36 with another power-play score. This was as lucky a goal as you can get. Tambellini was set up for the one-timer, but he fanned on the shot, which was then tipped by Jieke Kailiaosi (Jake Chelios) and into his own goal with almost slow motion speed.
Two minutes later, Tambellini burst through the middle and drew another penalty shot, and he scored with his bonus chance with a quick snap shot to the far side.
Canada made it 5-1 at 12:05. Eric O’Dell won the faceoff in the China end and went to the net where he tipped in Jason Demers’s point shot. Canada was coasting along, playing better and controlling play, but the rhythm of the game changed again late when Morgan Ellis took a five-minute elbowing major.
Ellis was playing his first game of the Olympics, replacing Alex Grant on the blue line, and the penalty cost his team during a subsequent five-on-three. Jian got his second of the game when he batted in a rebound out of the air after Tomkins made the initial save. It was the first goal the Canadians have surrendered all tournament while short-handed. The goal came at 19:00 and China still had two minutes left on the major to start the third.
Canada played a solid period of defence in the final 20 minutes, not allowing odd-man rushes or good scoring chances and playing with greater discipline. Staal scored his first goal of the Olympics at 15:55 when his long shot bounced off the leg of Aoxibofu Dannisi and in. Jack McBain finished the scoring with a late goal on another man advantage.
The result was a win and the final place in the quarter-finals where they will have another game with simple implications – win and play in the semi-finals, or go home.
"I think we played well," said Zanatta. "It hurt us to lose our goalie in the first period. But I’m very proud. They gave everything they had. There was a point there where the shots were 28-25, so what more can you ask? It’s been a really great experience for sure. To be on this stage is a huge opportunity for Chinese hockey."