Final, Canada 2-1: As expected, Canada is headed to the Olympic semifinals. But its path there was much more difficult than anyone predicted.
Latvia goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis was incredible, finishing with 55 saves, and the teams remained tied deep into the third period.
Shea Weber finally broke the deadlock with seven minutes to play, though, and Canada held on for a win that surely caused blood pressures to rise across the Great White North.
Next up, it’ll be a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game, with Canada taking on the United States on Friday.
Thanks for joining me, everyone. Keep it tuned to NESN.com for complete Olympics coverage.
Third period, 19:17, Canada 2-1: Timeout, Canada this time. 43.9 seconds remaining.
Third period, 18:22, Canada 2-1: Latvia calls a timeout with hopes of drawing up one final push.
They’ve gotten pressure in the last few minutes, but the Latvian skaters just seem too tired to put together any bona fide scoring chances.
Third period, 13:06, Canada 2-1: Canada finally beats Gudlevskis.
Shea Weber scores on a one-timer from the point with four seconds remaining on the power play, and the Canadians take the lead with less than seven minutes to play.
Third period, 12:53, 1-1: Gudlevskis is down in the crease. It might just be exhaustion. He’s faced 52 shots already tonight.
Third period, 9:09, 1-1: After nearly a minute of de-facto power-play time thanks to a delayed slashing penalty, Canada goes on the man-advantage for real.
Georgijs Pujacs heads to the sin bin.
Third period, 8:27, 1-1: Wow.
Jonathan Toews looked like he beat Gudlevskis five-hole, but as the puck trickled toward the net, Latvia D-man Kristaps Sotnieks reaches his glove into the crease and smothers the puck just before it crosses the line.
Mike Babcock and the Canada bench want a penalty shot, but they are not granted one.
How close was it? This close:
This is how INSANELY close Canada just came from taking the lead over Latvia. http://t.co/rh7sl9A8wF—
BuzzFeed Sports (@BuzzFeedSports) February 19, 2014
What a game this is.
Third period, 6:40, 1-1: Martins Karsums brings the puck into the Canada zone and feeds Zemgus Girgensons for an open look, but Latvia’s lone NHLer shoots it right into the chest of Carey Price.
Also, Bartulis is now back on the ice after being examined by team trainers.
Third period, 5:15, 1-1: One would think fatigue must be setting in for the Latvian defense. The Latvia D-men are keeping Canada off the board, but nearly every attempt to bring the puck out of the zone is intercepted in the neutral zone, leading to some very long shifts.
Latvia now might be without blue liner and alternate captain Oskars Bartulis, who barely made it back to the bench after taking a Shea Weber slap shot off his lower leg.
Anyone who has watched Canada in this tournament knows Weber has one of the hardest shots in hockey. That would be a big loss for Latvia if Bartulis is unable to return.
Third period, 1:00, 1-1: The third period is underway, and Canada immediately goes on the offensive.
Sidney Crosby has two open looks in front of the net but cannot capitalize.
Second intermission, 1-1: The 1-1 tie holds throughout the second period, and we now have just 20 minutes of hockey left to play.
Canada holds a 30-9 shot advantage, but the Latvians are outhitting the defending gold medalists 22-10 and gained a lot of momentum with some good scoring chances in the last few minutes.
Kristers Gudlevskis is playing out of his mind in the Latvian net, stymieing the Canadian attack at every turn. The guys in front of him also are doing a nice job of clogging up the front of the crease.
It’ll be interesting to see if John Tavares will be able to return. He went down awkwardly after taking a hit along the boards early in the second and hasn’t been back on the ice since. His line — whichever wingers he’s playing with — has been among Canada’s best in this tournament.
Canada will begin the third on the power play, though. A minute and a half remains on Sandis Ozolinsh’s high-sticking call.
Second period, 18:00, 1-1: Chris Kunitz uses speed to outpace the Latvia defense in the neutral zone, but Janis Sprukts makes an outstanding stick play from behind to knock the puck away from Kunitz. There was nothing but open ice between the Penguins winger and Gudlevskis.
Latvia has really gained some momentum in these last few minutes despite still trailing in the shot department by a massive margin.
Second period, 15:07, 1-1: Latvia needs to clean up its transition game. The Latvians are whistled for their second offsides violation in less than 30 seconds, and neither were even close.
Second period, 12:21, 1-1: Nothing doing for Latvia on the man-advantage, and Canada is back to full strength.
Second period, 10:21, 1-1: Martin St. Louis foils a Latvia scoring chance, but he does so with a slash. Latvia will go on the power play for the second time today.
Second period, 7:37, 1-1: Gudlevskis makes a great save to rob Jeff Carter and another on Marin St. Louis. Latvia kills the penalty.
Second period, 5:37, 1-1: John Tavares goes down hard to the ice after taking a hit from Arturs Kulda. He was able to skate over to the bench, but he seems to be in some significant pain.
Latvia immediately follows that up with 2-on-1 rush into the Canadian zone, but Miks Indrasis is unable to control a pass right in front of a sliding Carey Price. Indrasis seems to have injured himself on the play, as he, too, skates gingerly to the bench.
A slash after the play by Zemgus Girgensons puts Canada on the power play for the first time today.
Second period, 3:52, 1-1: This second period thus far has featured a lot of Kristers Gudlevskis saves, plus Sidney Crosby putting a guy in a headlock and wrestling him to the ice. We’re still knotted at one, though.
Second period, 0:01, 1-1: We are underway in the second period from Bolshoy Ice Dome.
I’m also realizing I neglected to inform you of the Canadian defensive pairings. Sorry about that. Here they are now:
First intermission, 1-1: The final seconds of the first period tick away, and the teams will head to the locker room all tied up.
With a 16-6 lead in the shot column, Canada certainly is controlling the tempo and getting far more quality chances, but Kristers Gudlevskis has been up for the challenge in the Latvia net.
First period, 15:41, 1-1: Not many people expected this.
Latvia wins a faceoff in the neutral zone and catches Canada off-guard on a line change, allowing Lauris Darzins to skate in all alone on Carey Price and roof one to tie this game up at one.
First period, 15:35, Canada 1-0: Patrice Bergeron sets up Drew Doughty nicely in front of the Latvia net, but the defenseman is unable to corral the pass.
Bergeron — playing on the first line today with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz — has been fantastic for the Canadians throughout these Olympics.
First period, 13:37, Canada 1-0: Patrick Sharp atones for his earlier penalty by beating Gudlevskis for the game’s first goal.
The Chicago Blackhawks star took a pass from behind the net from Rick Nash — who had a scoring chance of his own denied seconds earlier — and fired a slap shot inside the right post. John Tavares did a nice job of screening the Latvian goaltender on the play.
First period, 8:28, 0-0: Canada kills off the Sharp penalty, and Patrick Marleau gets a nice shorthanded bid to boot. He isn’t able stuff his own rebound past Gudlevskis, though.
First period, 6:28, 0-0: Gudlevskis has withstood the Canadian pressure thus far, and Latvia earns the game’s first power play.
Patrick Sharp heads to the box for tripping.
Here are the lines we’re looking at today for Team Canada:
First period, 4:05, 0-0: Sidney Crosby breaks into the Latvia zone all alone, but he’s denied by Kristers Gudlevskis. Pittsburgh Penguins teammate and linemate Chris Kunitz follows that up with another chance on Gudlevskis, but the goalie stands tall again.
First period, 0:01, 0-0: And we are underway.
11:25 a.m.: Bruins fans hoping to see former Bruins forward Kaspars Daugavins this afternoon will be disappointed.
Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press reports that the Daug Man is sick and will not suit up today for Latvia.
Daugavins has two assists in four games in these Olympics.
9:15 a.m. ET: Team Canada caught a break when Latvia upset Switzerland on Tuesday.
The Canadians are undefeated thus far in the Olympics and would have been favored against either opponent Wednesday in the quarterfinals, but the Swiss were the tournament’s best defensive team in the preliminary round and a sleeper pick to make a deep run.
Their time in Sochi was cut short with a 3-1 loss in the first elimination game, though, and Canada will instead take on a Latvia team that finished the opening round as the second-lowest seed and has just one NHL player (Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons) on its roster.
Canada beat Finland in overtime Sunday to earn the tournament’s No. 3 seed and a first-round bye.
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price will get the start in net after allowing just two goals in his first two games. Matt Duchene and P.K. Subban will be the team’s two scratches.
Check back in a bit for the full listing of line combinations and defensive pairings. Puck drop is set for noon.
Photo via Twitter/@NYRangers