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Before moving on from New Jersey to Detroit three years ago, Rafalski won two cups playing in front of the Canadian netminder. That didn't make him feel bad about adding goals to his big assist for the Americans. And he had better hope Canadian coach Mike Babcock carries no grudge, either, because Babcock will be doling out Rafalski's playing time when the two get back to Detroit.
Beyond all those personal and professional relationships built up over the years, the two countries share a border and a common language. The only substantive differences are that Canadians are more polite and enjoy national health care.
But nobody was about to pull any punches -- in some cases literally.
"Oh, no," replied U.S. defenseman Jack Johnson, who hammered Drew Doughty, his Los Angeles Kings teammate and Canadian counterpart, behind the Canada net and then finished off the check with an elbow to the head. "It's USA vs. Canada. It doesn't matter, absolutely not."
The victory provided the U.S. team with a bye and a breather heading into the quarterfinal round. It means one less game to reach the final, but a whole lot more than that. In a motivational ploy, the U.S. team broke out replica jerseys from their improbable 1960 Olympic gold at Squaw Valley, Calif., complete with the laces at the neck and a retro patch over their hearts.
"Our next game is a survival game, too. All we've done is we get to skip a game," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said.
"In fairness, Canada probably outchanced us 2-1 (actually, 45 shots vs. 23) and our goalie played excellent. We still have a long ways to go. Canada, I personally think, is the best team, and the Russians are right behind them."
For one evening, though, none of that mattered.
"A game like this," Kane said, "is all about bragging rights."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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