Canada barely survived a late push in beating Slovakia 3-2 in Friday’s semi-finals in the Olympic men’s Ice hockey, setting up a Super Sunday rematch against U.S. for the gold medal.
Patrick Marleau and Brenden Morrow scored in the first period for Canada and Ryan Getzlaf hit late in the second stanza to make it 3-0.
Lubomir Visnovsky pulled back a goal for Slovakia and Michael Handzus cut the deficit to 3-2 with less than five minutes to play in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Canada Hockey Place.
But it finished 3-2 despite a number of great Slovak chances down the stretch.
Canada lost 5-3 against the United States last Sunday in the final round robin game — a day tabbed as “Super Sunday”. Now Canada’s coach Mike Babcock’s team is just one victory away from completing their mission of reclaiming their eighth Olympic gold medal, but just their second since 1956.
Four years after winning gold at Salt Lake City 2002, Canada finished an embarrassing seventh at Turin 2006.
U.S., which has not lost in Vancouver, cruised past Finland with six goals in the first 13 minutes in a 6-1 victory to reach the final. The Americans will be going for their third gold following titles in 1960 and 1980.
Finland and Slovakia will face off on Saturday in the bronze medal match.
The first seven minutes of the Canada-Slovakia match was one-way traffic heading towards the Slovakia goal. But Slovak goalie Jaroslav Halak did a good job fending the North Americans away.
Canada finally grabbed the lead with 6:30 left in the first period as Marleau tipped home a point shot by Shea Weber. The officials had to consult with video replay to confirm that Marleau did not score with a high stick.
The score was 2-0 just 1:47 later with Morrow deflecting Chris Pronger’s point shot past Halak.
The Canadians remained in control of the game and ended all doubts on a power play goal with 3:06 left in the second. Getzlaf collected a rebound and blasted home his third goal of the tournament from his knees.
Slovakia pulled a goal back with 8:25 left on a delayed penalty with Visnovsky’s backhand trickling past Canada net-minder Roberto Luongo.
And it was 3-2 with 4:53 to play with Handzus stuffing home a loose puck in front of Luongo.
The Slovaks gave the Canadian defence all it could handle in the final going but could not beat Luongo a third time.