CANADA COLLAPSES IN THIRD AS RUSSIA WINS WORLD JUNIOR FINAL 5-3
BUFFALO, N.Y. – The scoring power of the Russian machine proved too much for Canada's lunch pail squad at the world junior hockey championship.
Artemi Panarin scored twice in a five-goal third period as Russian pressure produced a 5-3 victory in Wednesday's gold-medal game, while Canada had one of its worst collapses ever on the international stage before a stunned sellout crowd of 18,690 fans nearly all sporting the Canadian Maple Leaf.
“I'm in shock, I don't know what to say,” said Canadian defenceman Calvin de Haan.
Gifted captain Vladimir Tarasenko came back from a painful second-period rib injury to score the tying goal and set up Panarin for the game-winner, while Maxim Kitsyn and Nikita Dvurechenski also scored for a Russian team with a distinct flair for dramatic comebacks.
Russia, which claimed its fifth world junior gold and first since back-to-back wins in 2002 and 2003, had staged late third-period comebacks when facing elimination against Finland and Sweden in the two previous games.
“We're the best team in the world right now and we proved it,” said Yevgeni Kuznetsov, the Washington Capitals prospect who had three assists and who says the Stanley Cup is his next career goal. “We always believed because we are Russians and we have the best team.”
Canada built a 3-0 lead in the first two periods and looked to be cruising to its sixth gold medal in the last seven years, but they fell apart when and goaltender Mark Visentin was beaten on goals 13 seconds apart early in the third from Panarin and Kitsyn.
With the loss, Canada settled for silver for a second year in a row after a 6-5 overtime loss in the final in Saskatoon a year ago to the United States. It was particularly hard on the four players who returned from last year's squad, including de Haan.
“A thousand times worse,” he said. “Things happen for a reason and I guess this was meant to be.”
It looked like they simply ran out of gas after dominating Switzerland and the host United States in their two previous games mostly with energy and hard work, but forward Zack Kassian said it was more about how the tide can turn suddenly in hockey.
“I don't think we ran out of gas, they just took over,” Kassian said. “Hockey is a weird sport. Sometimes you have momentum swings and you just can't stop it. We didn't fold the tent. They just kept coming and coming and we stopped getting the bounces and it made us look like we were standing still.
“We were ready to go in the third, but they just took off and we couldn't find our game.”
Ryan Ellis and Carter Ashton scored in the first period and Brayden Schenn, the tournament's most valuable player, got one in the second even though he had been playing with a separated right shoulder since the quarter-finals.
Schenn had a goal and set up another to pass Wayne Gretzky and Eric Lindros and tie the team record for points in one world junior of 18 set in 1977 by Dale McCourt. It meant little to him after the loss.
“It's pretty tough to take right now,” said Schenn. “It obviously wasn't meant to be for us. It was a tough third period there.”
He said the injury was “not that bad. It's a first degree AC (acromioclavicular) joint, so we can take care of it after the tournament.”
Canada was felt to be short on naturally gifted scorers entering the tournament and big on size, energy and teamwork, causing team officials to dub them a working class team from the start.
Most of their flashy talent was missing, as seven players including scorers like Taylor Hall, Evander Kane, Matt Duchene and Tyler Seguin were retained by their NHL clubs.
It didn't help that key defencemen Brandon Gormley was injured before their selection camp in December and that one of their best scorers Jaden Schwartz went down with a fractured foot two games into the tournament.
But no one was using that excuse after the loss.
“Take away that third period collapse and we played some really solid hockey,” said coach Dave Cameron. “We almost got the result we wanted. We did more right than wrong.”
Tarasenko stole a puck behind the Canadian net and sent it out to Panarin for the game-winning goal at 15:22 of the third. Dvurechenski ended any hope of a Canadian comeback when he slid a shot behind the befuddled Visentin with 1:16 left to play.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Russians stormed the ice and fell over one another in celebration while the Canadians hung their heads and slowly gathered at the boards.
An hour after the game, the Russians were pouring shots for one another on the HSBC Arena ice and taking pictures with the championship trophy.
“After the second intermission, we said 'let's go,”' said goaltender Igor Bobkov. “We know that if we need three goals, we can get three goals. You need just to believe that.
“I will remember this all my life. The last three games, who can do that' Only Russians, right'”
It is how Russia was throughout the tournament. They would look half asleep for long stretches, then wake up and pour on the speed and scoring prowess.
Panarin, Kitsyn and Tarasenko struck in the opening 7:29 of the period, taking the wind out of the partisan crowd.
Despite the loss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a statement praising the effort of the Canadian team.
“On behalf of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, I offer my congratulations to Canada's junior hockey team on its silver medal at the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation U20 World Junior Championship,” the statement read.
“Their competitive spirit, sportsmanship and national pride are an inspiration to younger hockey players and fans across the country, and I look forward to following their achievements in the years to come.”
HSBC Arena was blanketed almost exclusively in red and white as Canadian fans who took over Buffalo for the 12-day event screamed, chanted and sang even as their team went down to defeat.
Canada got the early goal it wanted when Georgi Berdyukov was sent off for hooking and Ellis one-timed Schenn's cross-ice pass into an open side 4:50 into the game.
Only 14 seconds remained in the period when Ashton came out from behind the net and fit the puck through a tiny opening over Dmitri Shikin's shoulder for a 2-0 lead.
The Russians came out skating hard to start the second period, but were thwarted by Visentin while Schenn extended Canada's lead when he one-timed a Marcus Foligno pass in at 6:27.
That prompted coach Valeri Bragin to give Shikin the hook after three goals on 18 shots in favour of Bobkov, who was solid the rest of the way as Canada outshot the Russians 38-27 overall.
Panarin trailed in to wrist a shot past Visentin 2:33 into the third and the crowd was still buzzing when Kitsyn's shot dribbled between the goaltender's pads at 2:46.
Tarasenko, who left the game for repairs after he fell into Marcus Foligno's skate late in the second, one-timed a feed from Kuznetsov to tie the game.
Canada is 10-7-1 against Russia since it formed its own team after the fall of the Soviet Union.