January 3, 2012
Canada comeback falls shortRussia nearly blows five-goal lead
By SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Canada witnessed the comeback last year.
They nearly pulled off one of their own in Tuesday's 6-5 semifinal loss to Russia in the world junior hockey championship.
Dougie Hamilton, Jaden Schwartz, Brendan Gallagher and Brandon Gormley scored during a furious third-period rally that fell just short at the Saddledome.
Gormley said Team Canada had only itself to blame for the desperate situation in which they found themselves.
"We showed great character and great heart coming back," Gormley said. "It was 6-1, and we battled back to make it a 6-5 game. But we dug ourselves a hole in the first two periods.
"We definitely looked back on last year and that team had a three-goal lead and they came clawing back, so that's what we tried to do. When you give up six goals, it's hard to come back."
Evgeni Kuznetsov scored a hat-trick while Nikita Nesterov, Alexander Khokhlachev and Nikita Kucherov chipped in with singles for Russia, which will play Sweden for the gold medal Thursday (7 p.m. MT, TSN).
Brett Connolly also scored for Canada, which will face the Finns for bronze earlier that day (3 p.m., TSN).
Kucherov's third-period goal appeared to be nothing more than window dressing in a convincing Russian win.
But trailing 6-1 with just over a half-period to play, the Canadians went to work.
Hamilton and Schwartz scored 23 seconds apart.
Gallagher made it a two-goal game two minutes later, and then Gormley's powerplay marker blew the roof off the Saddledome when he brought Canada to within a goal with 5:43 to play.
But there was no Jordan Eberle moment this time, and Canada couldn't find the equalizer despite outshooting Russia 56-24.
Schwartz said his team just didn't play well enough through the first 49 minutes to get the job done.
"We had too many defensive breakdowns, and we were undisciplined at times," Schwartz said. "We had chances to tie it up at the end, but their goalie made a few big stops, and we couldn't capitalize.
"They have a lot of skill, and we needed to take away their time and space. We didn't do that at times."
The Russians silenced the rabid Dome crowd when they drew first blood 7:26 in.
Kuznetsov, who has spent the week goading Canadian fans, sent a shot off a sliding Ryan Murray on an odd-man rush.
After a couple of close calls at the other end off the sticks of Ryan Strome and Jonathan Huberdeau, the Russians went back to work on the powerplay, and Nesterov beat Canadian starting goaltender Scott Wedgewood with a slapper from the point.
Canada received a huge opportunity to get back in it when they were handed a two-man advantage for 1:14 but took a penalty of their own to help the Russians escape danger.
Connolly gave the fans hope when he came off the bench as an extra attacker early in the middle frame during a delayed penalty to the Russians. The Tampa Bay Lightning loaner sent a laser over Vasilevski's shoulder to make it a 2-1 game.
But Kuznetsov immediately sucked the life out of the building with a pair of goals and an assist in a span of 6:06. He went top-shelf on a 3-on-2, and then, thanks to a sloppy Canadian linechange, broke in on a 2-on-0, made a great deke to the forehand and roofed it to complete his hat-trick.
Khokhlachev bowled over Wedgewood after the goal. Mark Visentin, who was probably on his way into the game anyways, then replaced Wedgewood between the pipes.
The Russians scored two minutes later thanks to -- no surprise -- Kuznetsov, who fed Khokhlachev to make it 5-1.
Things got silly in the last 10 minutes of the period. Jenner was run over by Ildar Isangulov, but the Canadian forward was handed a spearing major and a game misconduct for gently pushing a trash-talking Kuznetsov with his stick.
The Finnish and American officiating tandem continued to draw the ire of the crowd when Huberdeau picked up a dubious slashing penalty and a misconduct to boot.
On Twitter: @SUNScottFisher