HELSINKI - The last thing a guy wants to do after making the skate of shame from the penalty box to the bench after watching the other team score the winning powerplay goal in overtime is make a u-turn to accept the player of the game award.
“It was a tough way to finish,” Team Canada’s John Tavares said of his awkward moment on Saturday.
Tavares scored a goal, registered an assist and won 11 of 14 faceoffs.
But he also whacked the puck over the glass with one second left in regulation time, with the score tied 4-4 with Team USA.
If he hadn’t done that, maybe this wouldn’t be a story about the Americans winning only their fourth game of 42 all-time against Canada at the world hockey championship.
Tavares went to the penalty box for the first 1:59 of overtime. And he was still there when Team USA captain Jack Johnson beat Cam Ward on a long wrist shot for the 5-4 winner.
“With the big ice, having a 4-on-3 power play is a big advantage ... and they took advantage of it,” said Tavares.
“It’s part of the adjustment here. The glass here isn’t tall. I knew there wasn’t much time left, but you’re always cautious and you’re just trying to get the puck out of play. I just reacted. I was hoping they didn’t see it.”
There were a lot of awkward moments about the game, not the least of which was head coach Brent Sutter having to take questions about the end of his 20-0-1 streak in international competition.
“When all was said and done the best team won,” Sutter said of Team USA, which got two goals from Johnson and singles from Jim Slater, Patrick Dwyer and Nate Thompson.
Tavares, Jeff Skinner, Evander Kane and Duncan Keith replied for Canada.
If the scoreboard didn’t show it, the 46-23 shots on goal reflected the Americans’ dominance.
“We didn’t handle the pace well.” said Sutter.
“Some guys hit a wall a little bit. I thought Ryan Getzlaf hit a wall. Corey Perry showed he’s got a little rust still,” he said of the two Anaheim Ducks who were the first to sign up but among the last to show up.
“On some of the goals, we lost coverage. At a critical time we gave up a short handed goal,” Sutter added of a play which began with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins coughing up the puck.
“I tried a play on the power play and it didn’t work,” said the Edmonton Oilers rookie.
Sutter certainly didn’t hang the game on Tavares because of what happened at the end.
“One second left and we shoot the puck into the stands. It sums up the way the night went,” he said.
“It’s never easy being a man down in overtime, especially on the big ice. And we did OK killing it until there were 12 seconds left.
“At least we got to overtime and didn’t let them get three points. They got two. We got one. They have five, we have four.
“It’s a long tournament.”
Goaltender Cam Ward said at the end of the day there’s not much to say.
“It’s never fun to lose, no matter if it’s in regulation or in overtime,” said Ward.
“They scored a big goal to force it into OT and we took a bad break on the penalty to give them an opportunity to score.”
Devan Dubnyk will be between the pipes Monday when Team Canada takes on France.