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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 19:22 GMT

Canada fail to fire

BBC Sport ice hockey commentator Bob Ballard watches Canada fail to fire in their first outing at the Winter Olympics

Oh Canada!

What happened? The red-hot favourites for gold were luke warm in their opening match with Sweden - and that's being charitable.

Their first line of forwards - Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic and Paul Kariya - worked well in the recent All-Star game in Los Angeles, but this was not an exhibition match, this was where the quest for gold began.

Coach Pat Quinn will surely have to re-evaluate his starting five after that 5-2 defeat, for there was no potency at all.

Indeed, it was indicative of their problems that the two goals they scored against Sweden were both from defencemen.

Goaltender Curtis Joseph was also not at his best, continuing the trend of underperforming NHL goalies at these Games.

As for the Swedes, Mats Sundin is definitely the new Peter Forsberg.

Forsberg, their inspirational captain from 1994 and 1998 may be missing through injury, but Toronto Maple Leafs forward Sundin has picked up the baton in style, with two blistering shots that stunned the Canadians.

With Tommy Salo in net performing acrobatics, a reappraisal of their medal chances is definitely in order.

And talking of men between the pipes, what a display by Mike Dunham of the USA!

Admittedly, Finland were shot-shy in their 6-0 drubbing by the host nation, but the Nashville Predators goalie did keep out 23 shots, and looked in prime form.

A stuttering start by Russia meanwhile, who were given a stern test by Belarus before coming up with a 6-4 victory - but their third period performance certainly blew away the cobwebs.

And defending champions, the Czech Republic, started their campaign in emphatic style by thrashing Germany 8-2.

The only consolation for the Germans the fact they got past Dominic Hasek on two occasions, something many teams failed to do in 1998.


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