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Someone's not happy

VANCOUVER — While Canadians remained in mourning a day after the United States beat them Sunday, U.S. men's hockey general manager Brian Burke stewed.

Burke may have just been posturing to temper the excitement after the United States' biggest upset since 1980's Miracle on Ice, but as he met with reporters Monday, he acted like a man whose team had lost.

He lamented the Americans' lack of focus early in the second period of the 5-3 victory, said only half of his players are giving the necessary effort and insisted the United States will have to play a lot better to advance in the win-or-go-home medal round that starts today.

"If that's how we play, we are going to have a hard time getting where we want to go," said Burke, also the Maple Leafs' GM.

Specifically, Burke pointed to Canada's 45-23 edge in shots, indicating the United States had been a little fortunate to win.

"We got outchanced 2-1, and our goaltender (the Sabres' Ryan Miller) stole us a game," Burke said. "Except for the goalie position, we didn't deserve to win that game. … That's not going to do it in the next round. We know that."

Still, rarely has one game done so much to improve the United States' medal chances, pump up its confidence and reduce the number of obstacles blocking its path.

"This was a huge step for the confidence of all the players," said defenseman Brian Rafalski, 36, who scored two goals and added an assist against Canada.

Rather than being exiled to the losers' round today, the Americans are the top seed in the quarterfinals and on the easier side of the bracket with Finland, which lost to Sweden 3-0 late Sunday to end the preliminary round.

If they beat the Switzerland-Belarus winner Wednesday, they'll play Finland, the Czech Republic or Latvia on Friday. Win that and they'll play for the gold for the second time in three Olympics; they lost to Canada 5-2 in 2002.

"Everything gets ratcheted up now," Burke said. "We've got to ratchet it up, too, or all this goes for naught. They don't hand out any medals for finishing first in the preliminary round. No one's taking any bows now."

As all of Canada sunk further into a panic over its all-star-stacked, gold-medal-favorite team, coach Mike Babcock made a move that should have quelled some of the anxiety.

He said Monday that the Canucks' Roberto Luongo will be in goal for today's unanticipated qualification game against Germany, with the Devils' Martin Brodeur his backup. And he said after practice that he would stick with Luongo the rest of the way.

"That's the plan," Babcock said.

Brodeur, the NHL's career victories leader, allowed four goals on 22 shots in the loss to the United States and also was in net against unheralded Switzerland, which took Canada to a shootout before losing. Luongo made 15 saves while shutting out Norway 8-0 in Canada's first game Feb. 16.

"It's going to be fun to play in front of the fans here again," Luongo said. "I'll do my best."

Meanwhile, Finland will be without defenseman Joni Pitkanen for its quarterfinal game. The Hurricanes' Pitkanen got an automatic one-game suspension for getting a match penalty for a hit to the head of Swedish wing Patric Hornqvist on Sunday.

Sweden's medical staff said Hornqvist, of the Predators, did not sustain a concussion. He hoped to return for the quarterfinals.

Someone's not happy 02/22/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 22, 2010 10:54pm]
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