Staking our claim

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- There's no need to search for a silver lining, the gold medal drought is over and an entire nation is raising its collective arms in celebration.

After settling for silver in each of the last three years, Canada won its first gold medal since 1997 by earning a 6-1 victory over Russia in the final of the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championship before an enthusiastic sellout crowd of 11,862 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

"If you look at our record over the past 10 years, it's outstanding," said Hockey Canada head scout Blair Mackasey. "That being said and I'll be the first one to say it, I'm not interested in winning silver medals. We're judged by the number of gold medals we win. I set the bar at winning gold medals and I don't think we should lower that bar."

Canada capped a perfect 6-0 tournament with a dominant performance over a country that had its number during the past six world junior tournaments.

"This is a dream come true," said Team Canada forward Sidney Crosby after the game.

Going into last night, Russia had beaten Canada in six of seven games, including gold-medal games in 1999, 2002 and 2003.

The Russians' run of good fortune is history, thanks to another inspired defensive effort by the Canadians.

Although there had been comparisons made to the 1995 Canadian team that posted a 7-0 record to win gold in Red Deer, Alta., a strong case could be made that this is the best squad Canada has ever sent to the tournament.

Canada, whose roster featured 12 returnees, outscored opponents by a margin of 41-7. Perhaps more impressive is that they gave up only two even-strength goals in six games.

The line of Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd had its best game of the tournament, combining for two goals and eight points, while effectively shutting down Russia's Evgeni Malkin, the second overall pick in the 2004 NHL entry draft.

Special teams were a factor as Canada tallied four power-play markers and gave up only one goal while short-handed.

Among the more impressive penalty kills was a two-man disadvantage that lasted one minute and 12 seconds early in the first period when Canada was clinging to a 1-0 lead.

Playing in front of a pro-Canada crowd, Getzlaf opened the scoring at 51 seconds, blasting a one-timer from the top of the circle past Russian netminder Anton Khudobin.

Defenceman Danny Syvret made it 2-0 at the eight-minute mark, finding a rebound and banking it in off the pad of Khudobin.

But before the period was out, Russia made things interesting by converting on a power play.

A point shot by Alexei Emelin made its way through a screen and beat Jeff Glass, whose ability had been questioned by Russian captain Alexander Ovechkin and Czech Republic captain Petr Vrana in recent days.

Glass would have the last laugh, turning aside 18 shots to earn the win.

"I wasn't going to get into a battle of words," Glass said. " I was going to let my play do the talking."

Canada took back control of the game in the second period, scoring four unanswered goals.

Carter's bad-angle shot at 3:33 gave Canada a two-goal lead and chased Khudobin from the game.

As he was leaving the ice, Khudobin broke the blade of his stick in disgust.

But Russian backup Andrei Kuznetsov didn't fare much better as Patrice Bergeron, Anthony Stewart and Dion Phaneuf all scored before the end of the second period.

Ovechkin, the first overall pick of the 2004 NHL entry draft, was a non-factor and didn't play in the third period because of a suspected shoulder injury.


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