May 9, 2006

Hot-shot Crosby helps Canada to win over US

By Steve Keating

RIGA (Reuters) - Rookie Sidney Crosby continued his torrid
scoring pace as Canada edged the United States 2-1 on Tuesday
to complete their preliminary round play at the world ice
hockey championships with an unbeaten record.

In other action, Sergejs Naumovs made 17 saves after Latvia
gave Slovenia an early goal then roared back to secure a 5-1
victory and a place in the second round, triggering another
night of wild celebrations in Riga.

Defending champions the Czech Republic continued to
struggle but also advanced after holding on to earn a 3-3 tie
with Finland.

Earlier in the day, Tore Vikingstad had a goal and set up
three others as Norway powered to 6-3 win over Scandinavian
rivals Denmark to secure third place in Group D and a spot in
the qualification round.

Preliminary round play concludes with four games on
Wednesday with the top three teams in each of four groups
moving onto the qualification round.

The four teams at the bottom of each of the standings slip
into relegation play.

Phil Kessel, who is expected to be among the top picks in
this year's NHL draft, gave the U.S. a 1-0 first period lead
before Crosby, last year's number one selection, answered for
Canada in the second with his fourth of the tournament.

The 18-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins rookie now has goals in
all three of Canada's games.


But it was Brendan Shanahan, the grizzled 37-year-old
veteran with three Stanley Cup rings and Olympic, world
championship gold medals in his trophy case, who notched the
winner, standing his ground in front of the U.S. net and neatly
backhanding the puck past Jason Bacashihua.

"We had the oldest player score and the youngest so we had
both ends of the spectrum covered," said Shanahan, who joined
the team after the Detroit Red Wings were eliminated from the
Stanley Cup playoffs.

"This was the type of game that tested our patience and
ability to stick with a game plan."

Over at the Riga Arena, the Czech Republic and Olympic
silver medallists Finland met to decide top spot in Group A.

After a plodding start to the tournament that included an
opening tie with Latvia and hard-fought win over Slovenia, the
Czechs finally flexed their muscles, Nashville Predators Martin
Erat and Columbus Blue Jackets Jaroslav Balaskic scoring 24
seconds apart in the opening period to take a 2-0 lead.

Trailing 3-1 entering the final period, Finland hit back
with goals from Aki Berg and Petteri Nummelin with just 1:12
left to play to earn the tie and take top place in the group
ahead of the Czechs and Latvia.

Needing a win over the hard-working Slovenians to advance,
Latvia survived a jittery first period before coming to life in
the second behind the deafening support of a raucous sold-out
crowd 9,129 at Riga Arena.

Mija Sivic had banged home his own rebound to nose Slovenia
in front 1-0 but Latvia hit back with four second period
tallies from Aleksandrs Semjonovs, Martin Cipulis and
Aleksandrs Jerofejevs and Leonids Tambijevs to take command.