Jet-lagged Canadians beat Italy
It seemed all Canada needed to find its game was a scare by a motivated Italian team Wednesday morning at Palasport Olimpico arena.
Jarome Iginla scored two power-play goals to lead Canada to a 7-2 win over Italy as the team opened defence of its Olympic gold medal.
The Canadians looked sluggish and confused early as they missed passes and good scoring opportunities.
The result was only a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period on Iginla’s goal. He took a perfect pass from Todd Bertuzzi and then one-timed a shot from the slot to beat Italian goaltender Jason Muzzatti at 5:33.
Italy scored the tying goal on the power-play just 43 seconds into the second period that shocked Canada and prompted the home crowd into loud chants of “Italia, Italia,” after Giulio Scandella directed a shot to the Canadian net that beat goalie Martin Brodeur.
The mometum didn’t last as Dany Heatley scored a power-play goal to give Canada a 2-1 lead a 1:12 later.
Heatley’s goal seemed to settle the Canadians en route to five unanswered goals. Winger Todd Bertuzzi, who had two assists in the game, said his Canadian team wasn’t unnerved by the Italian goal.
“Not at all, not with the amount of character we have,” Bertuzzi told CBC Sports.
“We know what we have to do, we came out strong in the second period, we kept building and building, our passes got better and we started scoring goals.”
Iginla’s second goal with the man advantage gave Canada all the insurance it would need.
He took a nifty cross-ice pass from Joe Sakic and wristed a shot to the short side past Italian goaltender Jason Muzzatti at 6:04.
While motivated by the crowd, the Italians were undisciplined as Canada’s speed produced three goals on the eight chances on the power play.
Canadian coach Pat Quinn’s decision to put Iginla, Bertuzzi and captain Sakic paid off in this game as the three combined for five points.
“We all play similar roles on the power play,” said Bertuzzi. “Me and Jarome are better suited for around the net and in the corner. It was pretty easy, especially [playing with] Jarome and I tried to get him the puck in the slot and worked off Joe.”
Shane Doan, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Joe Thornton scored Canada’s other goals, while forward John Parco tallied for Italy’s second goal.
Despite Canada’s immense advantage in talent and 50-20 edge in shots, Italy worked hard and Muzzatti made several key saves.
The Italians are making only their third Olympic appearance in hockey. They participated in the 1948 and 1956 Winter Games.
Italy does have some players with limited NHL experience.
Muzzatti, a former Calgary Flames first-round pick, had his only NHL shutout in 1996 when he stopped all 40 shots to lead the Hartford Whalers to a 1-0 win over a young Martin Brodeur and the hometown New Jersey Devils.
“It was a tremdous challenge for us,” said Muzzatti, who gained a lot of respect from the Canadian team. “My boys worked so hard to keep it at [7-2]. There’s a lot of people at home saying prayers in Toronto and I think they helped me keep it to seven.”
The win gives Canada its 91st Olympic victory, the most by any coutnry.
Canada’s next game is Thursday (CBC, 2 p.m. EST) against Germany.
Jet-lagged Canadians beat Italy