CALGARY - Somewhere in D.C. Alex Ovechkin is smiling.
That gap in his grin is gaping like Team Canada's net seemed to be early Tuesday night in what will go down as one of the most shocking losses in Canadian junior lore.
After a perfect roundrobin, the Canadians were denied a trip to the world junior championship final for the first time since medal-round play was introduced 11 years ago, thanks to a spectacular 6-5 loss to Russia at the Dome.
The Washington Capitals forward, who is only starting to recover from the legendary 7-3 beatdown Canada laid on Russia in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Olympics, had to have been watching his Russian juniors semifinal win with glee.
Fitting then that the man who did most of the damage was 19-year-old Capitals prospect Evgeni Kuznetsov, who will no doubt join Ovechkin in Washington next year to follow in the Gr8 Eight's footsteps.
Not only did the kid drafted 26th overall in 2010 score three times and add an assist in a game that was 5-1 Russia by the end of the second (only to end as a one-goal game, thanks to Canada's heart), he also factored in on some of the shenanigans that made both teams look bad for a time.
As a frustrated Canadian squad began its meltdown late in the second period with a series of penalties and goals against, Russian Ildar Isangulov decided to lash back with a vicious elbow to the face of Boone Jenner.
As the groggy Canadian slowly got up Kuznetsov went over to say something to him.
The contents of the discussion will clearly never be relayed accurately but whether he was rubbing salt in the wound of an injured player or offering sincere condolences, he should have known better.
He had no business being around the fallen player.
Granted, although provoked, Jenner should have known better than to attempt to spear Kuznetsov (and receive a game misconduct for his effort).
As the only returning player from last year's gold medal-winning team, Kuznetsov wears the C on a team it appears at times he wants simply to carry on his back.
After scoring his second goal of the game, Kuznetsov refused to embrace any of his four teammates, instead soaking up the limelight himself while showboating and then making his way over to the Russian bench for high-fives.
After setting up the Russian's fifth goal with a brilliant pass of his own, Kuznetsov was again content to celebrate alone.
For those unfamiliar, Kuznetsov made a name for himself earlier in the tourney when he threatened a tourney record with nine points in a 14-0 win over the Latvians.
They were the only points he scored in the entire tourney until last night.
Yes, he picked a perfect time to show up again and participate.
He's a heck of a talent, but not much of a teammate.
He was the one who selfishly tried to score on the empty net in the final minute by icing the puck and giving Canada another shot at tying the game.
Smart, team players don't do that.
Players trying to pad stats do.
He was also the one who showed little humility while accepting his player-of-the-game award by putting his hands up to his ears to encourage the booing that rained down on him.
Some call it being a character.
Others call it being classless -- the kind of thing a kid who scores nine points on midget players would do.
He's 19 and he has lots of growing up to do.
But that didn't make it any less painful to watch on the juniors' biggest stage last night.
In a Washington organization that also houses Ovechkin and Alex Semin, somehow we think Kuznetsov will fit right in.
- Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.