Thursday, January 6, 2011
The Kardiac Kids (Сердечная детей) from Russia pulled off the third and most spectacular comeback of the 2011 World Junior Championship last night. Not only was it their most spectacular comeback of this year's tournament, but it was also the greatest comeback in a gold medal final in the history of the World Juniors.
Russia opened their tournament looking outgunned as they hung with Canada through two periods before Canada pulled away convincingly with three goals in the third period to win 6-3. Things did not get any easier for Russia when they gave up two first period goals to Sweden and had no answer for the Swedish defense, which held them scoreless to win 2-0, leaving Russia halfway through their Group B schedule tied with Norway at exactly zero points.
Fortunately for Russia, outmanned Norway was next on their schedule and an 8-2 win was an opportunity to get some much needed points in the standings and regain some needed confidence. With Sweden and Canada stealing the headlines with their matchup for the bye that came with winning Group B, Russia faced off against the Czech Republic to determine who would advance to the playoff round and an all-important chance to wipe their slate clean.
Russia took care of business for the second game in a row, building an 8-2 lead after two periods to escape the Preliminary Round and head into a quarterfinal matchup with the second place team in Group A, Finland.
Although Russia scored first half way through the first period, Finland equalized in the first period, added a second in the second and built their lead to 3-1 with a goal 2:24 into the third. When the Finns took their third penalty of the period with five and a half minutes remaining, Russia got the opportunity they needed. Or at least the opportunity Yevgeni Kuznetsov needed.
The Washington Capitals draft pick simply took the game into his own hands and crammed in a shot that appeared to be under the Finnish goaltender Joni Ortio. A minute later Kuznetsov skated into the Finnish zone and through the defense to put a solid shot on goal, which Ortio could not corral and Maxim Kitsyn converted the rebound into a tie score, which would last through the end of regulation.
Kuznetsov celebrates Russia's comeback against Finland
After trading chances, Kuznetsov received the puck from Kitsyn along the boards, cut toward the middle of the ice and fired a laser past a screening defenseman and over Ortio's shoulder to pull one out of the fire for Russia and advance them a quarterfinal rematch against Group B winner Sweden.
Russia scored the first two goals, but found themselves in peril when Sweden came back to tie the game 1:20 into the third period and scored with 3:19 remaining in the third period to put themselves in position to advance to the gold medal game. The Russians were not done, however, as Sergei Kalinin rammed in a loose puck with a dramatic diving stab with 1:27 remaining to keep the Russians alive and send the game into overtime.
The overtime settled nothing despite Sweden outshooting Russia 5-1 and the contest moved to a shootout. Denis Golubev scored on Russia's second shot and Dimitri Shikin made all three saves Russia needed to win the shootout and advance to the finals to meet Canada, who overpowered the United States 4-1.
Golubev celebrates his shootout goal
Canada, backed by a thousands and thousands of red-clad Canadian fans from just over the border from Buffalo, opened the scoring at 4:50 with a power play goal and extended their lead at the end of the first period when Carter Ashton scored with just 13.5 seconds remaining.
Canada again had their way in the second period, holding Russia off the board and also adding to their lead when Brayden Schenn hammered a one-timer past a helpless Shikin at 6:27 to tie the Canadian record for most points in a World Junior tournament with 18 from 8 goals and 10 assists. It was to be his last point of the tournament.
Shikin was pulled in favor of Igor Bobkov, who's only prior action was letting in 6 goals to Canada in their opening game of the tournament. At this point Canada had outscored Russia 6-0 over the last three periods of play against each other heading into the third period, which had all the feeling of a victory lap for Canada on their way to the gold medal.
Russia broke the shutout at 2:33 on a goal by Artemi Panarin on a wrist shot over Canadian goaltender Mark Visentin's glove to make it 3-1, but no cause for alarm. The Canadian fans sat up straight however when Russia caught everyone off guard when Kitsyn squeezed a shot through Visentin's pads to make a game of it for the first time all night.
In a development worthy of a Hollywood movie, Russian captain Vladimir Tarasenko, who had left the game in the second period after taking a hard blow from a Canadian player's shin while he was prone on the ice, took a great pass from Kuznetsov to tie the game at 7:29, their third goal in less than 5 minutes, and fully energize the Russian squad.
Tarasenko gets up off the mat to take part in the shocking Russian comeback
The tables were fully turned when the Russians refused to let the Canadians repeatedly clear the zone and Tarasenko worked a perfect give-and-go with Panarin, who buried the puck deep into the back of the net for the first Russian lead with 4:16 to play.
Nikita Dvurechenski put the game out of reach when he easily scored the fifth even strength goal of the period for Russia when he easily won a race to a loose puck in the Canadian zone and put it between Visentin's legs at 18:44 to begin the Russian celebration and leave the Canadian faithful in stunned silence.
Panarin finished with two goals and Kuznetsov had three assists in the third period turnaround to lead the Russians to a shocking gold medal, completing their third consecutive come from behind victory and become the first team to win the World Juniors after losing their first two games.
2011 World Junior gold medal champions Russia
Today's featured jersey is a 2010-11 Team Canada Brayden Schenn jersey. Schenn led all tournament scorers with 8 goals, 10 assists and 18 points and was named to the tournament All-Star Team, was named the Best Forward of the tournament and the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Despite all the personal awards he gathered, he came away without the one he really wanted, the gold medal.
Schenn's jersey worn in Canada's game on December 28th against the Czech Republic is currently up for bid on ebay, and had 42 bids, the highest of which is for $2,383.86 at the time of this writing.
Here are highlights of the gold medal game of the 2011 World Junior Championship and Russia's historic come back against Canada.