Canada beats U.S. in heated contest

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

The Associated Press

MONTREAL -- Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist to lead Canada to a 2-1 victory over the United States Tuesday night in the World Cup of Hockey opener for both teams.

The game was fast-paced and full of hard-hitting and stellar play by Canada goalie Martin Brodeur and U.S. counterpart Robert Esche.

It also took little time for the teams to show signs of the heated rivalry that has peaked since Canada beat the United States in the gold-medal game of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Canada's 38-year-old captain Mario Lemieux went after Steve Konowalchuk when the American forward ran into Brodeur. Both teams also lost players to injuries, as defenseman Ed Jovanovski was knocked out of Canada's lineup, and the United States was without forward Mike Modano for most of the game.

As is typical with NHL playoff games, neither team would give specifics about the ailments. Both were said to have lower body injuries and were to be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

Joe Sakic also scored for Canada, which controlled the game at both ends of the ice for the first 25 minutes before the United States took back the momentum.

Bill Guerin scored for the United States, which beat Canada 5-2 in the final of the inaugural World Cup in 1996 in the same building.

"They came out hungrier then we were, way more intense," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said. "Fortunately Robert Esche was on top of things ... we needed our goaltender to keep us in there."

Canada will play its second game of the round robin portion of the eight-team tournament Wednesday night against Slovakia in Montreal. The United States will play Russia on Thursday night in St. Paul, Minn.

Canada was leading 2-1 at 16:03 of the second period frame when Konowalchuk came in hard and bumped Brodeur in the crease.

Lemieux, not known for fighting, especially due to his fragile back, charged in and tussled with Konowalchuk until linemate Jarome Iginla took over. Defenseman Scott Niedermayer ended up fighting American center Jeff Halpern.

There were big hits on both sides that led to chants and noise from the mostly red and white clad capacity crowd of 21,273, which included Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Canada came out with a new look -- gold colored jerseys with a red maple leaf. They were replica uniforms of those worn by the 1920 Winnipeg Falcons, the first Olympic hockey gold medallists.

By early in the second period, Canada had a 2-0 lead and was outshooting the Americans 24-6. The United States closed that gap and finished with a 32-24 shots disadvantage.

For most of the first period, it looked like Esche would emulate the 1996 performance of Mike Richter, who earned MVP honors in the United States' World Cup victory. But St. Louis gave Canada a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 16:01.

Quick passes down low by Joe Thornton and Niedermayer fed St. Louis in the slot for a high shot just inside the post.

Canada was on another power play when Sakic's point shot hit Chris Drury's leg and bounced past the screened Esche 3:05 into the second.

But Guerin got the United States within 2-1 at 10:40 when he had time to gain control of a pass from Scott Gomez and whip a quick high shot past Brodeur's glove side.

Brodeur was run again in the third period by Halpern, but there was no retaliation or fighting.

Canada could've had a bigger lead but Esche denied Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier early and then made a quick pad save on a tipped shot by Iginla.

Brodeur was also sharp, robbing Keith Tkachuk alone at the side of the net early in the second period.

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