Vincent Lecavalier, center, wasn't even an original selection on Canada's roster.
Lecavalier, who helped lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to the NHL
championship in June, scored 3:45 into overtime Saturday night to
give Canada a 4-3 victory over the Czech Republic and send the host
nation into the title game of the World Cup of Hockey.
"Scoring in overtime for your country to go to the finals is
pretty high in my career for sure," said Lecavalier, who assisted
on Ruslan Fedotenko's Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 7 against
The Canadians, who have reached the championship game in all
seven Canada Cup/World Cup tournaments, will face Finland in
Toronto on Tuesday.
Finland is the surprise opponent, having eliminated the United
States in St. Paul, Minn., in the other semifinal Friday night.
The final game might be the last NHL-style hockey that's played
for a while as the league's collective bargaining agreement with
the players' association expires the following day. The sides are
far apart, and a lockout that threatens next season is expected to
Canada's Roberto Luongo made 37 saves -- including all five in
overtime -- in his first start of the tournament in place of the
injured Martin Brodeur, who allowed only three goals on 100 shots
in Canada's first four games.
Mario Lemieux, Kris Draper, and Eric Brewer also scored for
Canada, which squandered two third-period leads to set up the
Petr Cajanek, Martin Havlat and Patrik Elias scored for the
Czech Republic, and Tomas Vokoun made 20 saves.
Lecavalier wasn't even an original selection to Canada's roster,
but a fine showing in the Stanley Cup playoffs -- nine goals, seven
assists -- and an injury to Steve Yzerman landed him on the team.
And boy is Canada glad.
Already struggling through a tense game without its top goalie,
Canada breathed a big sigh of relief when Lecavalier scored.
His first attempt in front was stopped by Vokoun, and then
Lecavalier whiffed on the rebound. He skated back along the goal
line and roofed a shot that sent the red-clad, chanting fans into a
"After I missed my first shot, it went between my legs,"
Lecavalier said. "I knew I didn't have much time so I just turned
around and shot it as quick as I could. I knew I had to go high.
With the angle I had, I got pretty lucky."
Canada is 5-0 and hasn't had to leave the country for any game
in the tournament.
It will face Finland (4-0-1), which along with the Czech
Republic came out of the European Division and had to travel to
North America for the final rounds.
The defeat was a bitter one for the Czech Republic, which lost
coach Ivan Hlinka to a fatal car crash just before the tournament.
Then the Czechs dropped their first two games in the round-robin
before finding their stride.
"People are going to miss hockey," said Elias of the New
Jersey Devils. "Obviously, this is disappointing for us, and now
we don't know what's going to happen. I guess we go on vacation."
Martin Havlat tied it 2-2 at 7:21 of the third on the Czech
Republic's only power play of the game, created by Lecavalier's
Tomas Kaberle, a Toronto Maple Leafs' defenseman suddenly turned
enemy in his home NHL arena, fired a shot from the blue line that
Luongo turned aside. But Havlat knocked in the rebound.
It was the first power-play goal allowed by Canada in 15
Vokoun stopped Dany Heatley's breakaway try just over a minute
later with an on-the-back stop that resembled ones often made by
Czech Republic predecessor Dominik Hasek.
Luongo also turned some tricks, making three saves in a flurry
after losing his stick.
It was Vokoun who faltered first by allowing Draper's slap shot
to get by during a delayed-penalty call, that gave Canada a 3-2
lead with just 6:13 remaining.
Just six seconds later, Elias tied it by firing a loose puck
that was between the circles, through traffic and by Luongo.
"It was up and down hockey," Jaromir Jagr said. "Even when we
were down 2-0 we came back. That showed the power of this team."
Luongo was in because of Brodeur's wrist injury sustained late
in Canada's easy quarterfinal victory over Slovakia.
After the first 31 minutes passed in this one without a goal or
penalty, Brewer snapped the scoreless tie.
Joe Thornton got the puck near the left boards and passed it
down behind the net to Draper, who found Brewer charging in from
the blue line for a stuff shot past Vokoun.
Just 3:10 later, Lemieux, made it 2-0 with his first goal of the
series on the first power play of the game.
But just 42 seconds after that, Cajanek got the Czech Republic
within a goal with a shot that Luongo didn't appear to see.