HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - Dany Heatley scored twice, including the winner with 47 seconds left, to lift Canada to a riveting 5-4 victory over the U.S. at the world championships on Tuesday.
The Canadians secured top spot in Group B with a perfect 3-0 record while Russia who survived a goaltending crisis to beat Denmark 4-1 in Quebec City to take first place in Group D.
After the U.S. 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 on the ice, wrestling and throwing punches.
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 scorer (42 points) at the world championships.
“You go through stretches where it doesn’t go in and you go through stretches when it does,” Heatley told reporters. “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 their first big test and the defending champions responded with a gritty effort to notch their 12th successive championship win.
Dressed in throwback jerseys worn by the 1976 Canada Cup champions that featured 18 Hockey Hall of Famers, the hosts sped into a 3-0 lead through goals from Heatley, Brent Burns and Jonathan Toews.
But the U.S. fought back, Zach Parise and Patrick O‘Sullivan scoring 2:17 apart early in the second period to trim the deficit to 3-2.
The U.S. made a goaltending change to start the third, switching Tim 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 U.S., Dustin Brown and Jason Pominville converting powerplay chances to tie the scores at 4-4.
“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 faded 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 Evgeni Nabokov arrives on Thursday.
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 their third straight win.
In other games, the Czech Republic secured their spot in the next round with a 7-2 victory over winless Italy, who drop down in the relegation battle.
The Italians were joined in the relegation round by Slovenia, who were shutout 3-0 by Latvia.
Editing by Martin Petty