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Lightning prospect Gudlevskis, Latvia scare Canada

Before Wednesday's men's hockey quarterfinal between Latvia and Canada, Kristers Gudlevskis was a relative unknown.

But by the time it was over, Latvia's 21-year-old goaltender had transformed into a kind of folk hero with an astonishing effort that overshadowed the 2-1 loss that eliminated his team from the tournament.

"That," Canada and Canadiens goalie Carey Price said, "was one of the best goaltending performances I've ever seen."

Gudlevskis, who plays for the Lightning's AHL affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., made 55 saves to single-handedly give an overmatched Latvian team a chance at one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history. The Predators' Shea Weber spoiled things with 6:54 left in the third with his tie-breaking power-play goal that sent a relieved Canadian squad into Friday's semifinal with the United States.

"I play for my teammates because they play so good in every game," Gudlevskis, drafted 124th overall in June, told reporters in Sochi, Russia. "I just wanted to give them the opportunity to win the game. … You start to believe, and then you just work hard."

Gudlevskis' work included 21 third-period saves as Latvia was outshot 57-16 in the game.

"(Wednesday) was probably one of the biggest challenges of his young career," Lightning goaltenders coach Frantz Jean said, "and he came out with flying colors. … One of the reasons we drafted him is his competitive ability, and he showed that."

Still, there was this: Asked what he will say the next time he sees Tampa Bay and Canada general manager Steve Yzerman, Gudlevskis said, "You're lucky."

Lightning prospect Gudlevskis, Latvia scare Canada 02/19/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 11:06pm]

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