Canada Gets the Win It Cherishes Most

APCanada's goalie Cam Ward deflecting a shot from the United States' David Booth during their hockey world championship preliminary-round game Tuesday.
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- Dany Heatley scored twice, including the winner with 47 seconds left, to lift Canada to a riveting 5-4 victory over the United States at the world championships on Tuesday.

The Canadians secured top spot in Group B with a perfect 3-0 record while Russia survived a goaltending crisis to beat Denmark 4-1 in Quebec City to take first place in Group D.

After the Americans had stormed back from 3-0 down to level at 4-4, Heatley clinched victory when he ripped a slapshot past Craig Anderson, the game ending with a raucous capacity crowd on its feet and players wrestling and throwing punches on the ice.

It was the sixth goal in three games for Heatley, the red-hot Ottawa Senators winger, who is now the country's all-time leading goal scorer (26) and top point scorer (42 points) at world championships.

"You go through stretches where it doesn't go in and you go through stretches when it does," Heatley said. "It was a great job to battle back like that, but at the same time, I think we can play better and we will."

After easy wins over Slovenia and Latvia, the Americans provided Canada with its first big test, and the defending champion responded with a gritty effort to notch its 12th successive win in championship matches.

Dressed in throwback jerseys worn by the 1976 Canada Cup champion that featured 18 Hockey Hall of Famers, the host sped into a 3-0 lead through goals from Heatley, Brent Burns and Jonathan Toews.

But the Americans fought back, with Zach Parise and Patrick O'Sullivan scoring early in the second period to trim the deficit to 3-2.

The U.S. team made a goaltending change to start the third, switching Thomas, who strained his groin, for Anderson, and Derek Roy welcomed him to the game by restoring Canada's two-goal cushion.

Some indiscipline by Canada, however, opened the door for the Americans, Dustin Brown and Jason Pominville converting powerplay chances to tie the scores at 4-4.

Mathieu Belanger / Reuters
Russia's Ilya Nikulin tussling with Denmark's Morton Green on the boards.
"This is our game and we feel we have to win," said Canada captain Shane Doan. "We don't have a choice."

Russian gold medal chances took a dent after Alexander Eremenko was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury on Monday and the team was left with one registered netminder until Yevgeni Nabokov.

But Mikhail Biryukov proved a more than adequate backup as Russia brushed past the outclassed Danes.

Russia built a 4-0 lead on goals from Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Ovechkin, Maxim Afinogenov and Konstantin Gorovikov before easing to its third straight win.

A weary Nabokov will join the Russian team this weekend, after his San Jose Sharks were eliminated from the NHL playoffs.

Nabokov played in a team-record 77 games during the NHL regular season, leading the league with 46 wins and notching up the second highest time on the ice with 4,560 minutes. He then played in each of the Sharks' 13 playoff games, including the four-overtime, 129-minute loss to the Dallas Stars on Sunday night that eliminated San Jose from the second round.

Nabokov and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur are the top two candidates for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie. Nabokov was among the league leaders in every statistical category while falling just two wins shy of Brodeur's single-season NHL record.

"As long as I'm injury-free, I feel fine and I want to keep playing," said Nabokov, a native of Kazakhstan who played well in his Russian debut at the Turin Olympics two years ago. "Sometimes even when you're tired, you're still fine to play."

In other games, the Czech Republic secured its spot in the next round with a 7-2 victory over winless Italy, which drop into the relegation round along with Slovenia, which was shut out 3-0 by Latvia.