When I said that I believed Canada could win, I didn’t think that it would be this way. Only a few days after producing what was touted as the best World Junior game ever against the United States, Team Canada provided another epic game to top all epic games. I haven’t been this freaked out during any game that I’ve watched since July 6th (for the records, that was the Wimbledon final).
I said that the Russians could win this if they played a physical game and took advantage of the lapses that were going to come from Canada. And they came within 5.4 seconds of doing it. Yes, people, Canada was 5.4 seconds away from being knocked out of the competition. But thanks to a last ditched effort by Tavares and Eberle, Canada is now back to the finals for a 8th straight time.
In all honesty, Canada did not play as sharp as we’ve grown used to seeing them. They gave up turnover after turnover after turnover to the Russians who seized on every chance. It was supposed to be a do or die effort from both team but it looked like the only ones doing the doing was the Russians. Every time Canada got a goal the Russians responded within minutes – or seconds at some point – with a goal of their own. Credit goes to the Russians for sure for coming up with answers to Canada’s killer powerplay. Credit also goes to the Russians for playing a very physical game and generating a lot of offense. And maybe credit should go to the Russians for rattling the Canadians as well? I can’t say how much the Russians affected the Canadians’s mental game. I think they came in here mentally faitgued from the game against the Americans which was a real show stopper. I think they also came in here thinking that the Russians wouldn’t be as good as they were. This proved to be a very dangerous mix and the Russians seized on it completely.
Evander Kane put a goal past Vadim Zhelobnyuk just over two minutes into the game. This was followed by bad pass and a turnover and goal by Goncharov for Russia. This was to be a theme that we would see all night.
7:04 of the first saw Patrice Cormier get another goal by the Russian goalie. This time the lead lasted just 16 seconds as another turnover by the Canadians lead to yet another goal. This time from Dmitri Klopov who was set up by Klyukin.
A rash of penalties then followed. 1 for Canada and 3 for the Russians. Canada’s so far amazing powerplay was shut down beautifully by the Russians and there was no more scoring in the first period.
The second period was a mess penalty-wise. The Russians took four straight penalties. With Chudinov off for high sticking, Canada now had a 5 on 3 chance to grab a goal. Eberle was finally able to get a goal past Zhelobnyuk just one second after the first penalty had been called. So it would now be 5 on 5.
Canada’s lead lasted all of 51 seconds into the third period as Grachev again took advantage of bad playing by the Canadians and put one past Tokarski.
Would Canada ever have the lead? As it would turn out, no. Not until the shootouts.
While Angelo Esposito got an amazing shorthanded goal, it again, wasn’t enough for Canada to stay ahead. Less than a minute later PK Subban was sent off for tripping and the Russians again took a goal.
And the scary bit was yet to come. With less than three minutes to go, the Russians somehow managed to get a goal past Tokarski. This one was a little weird as a loose puck floated near Tokarski. Suddenly there’s a lot of action around the right side of the net and someone manages to squeeze the puck past Tokarski and into the back of the net.
I seriously thought that it could be over here. I knew of course that it was only over once the last second died away but this was not good now. The Russians had clearly come up with almost all the answers to Canada’s game and now, surely, they could hold on to the lead?
With time running out, the Canadians pulled Tokarski for the extra player. Obviously the danger of this is that you’ve got an open net now. And with the amount of turnovers that they had been making, surely the Russians would score? Klyukin (or was it Klopov?) must be killing himself right now because with literally seconds left in the game, his stick found the puck and he had the space to skate down the rink and put the game away for the Russians. But he didn’t. He stayed in the Russian zone and took a shot. And he missed the net. A goal would have sent the Russians to the finals for sure. But no. His missed shot kept hope alive and with less than 10 seconds left, Tavares battled for the puck and took a shot on goal. It was blocked a Russian defensman who’s name escapes me but Jordan Eberle took it and put it past Zhelobnyuk with just 5.4 seconds left. Oh man, I know I wasn’t the only one sitting there, setting myself up for disappointment tonight. The 19,000+ fans went berserk when Eberle got that goal in. Simply beautiful.
The Russian coach would later say that that goal simply crushed the Russians and I believe it. A 10 minute over time saw some very high quality chances for Canada but though they dominated, they couldn’t capitilize and it was to shootouts we went. Now, I hate shootouts. I think they’re a cheap way of determining a winner. I could make a convincing case for both teams going through. But in the end, someone had to win. And before midnight too.
Eberle and Tavares both put the puck past Zhelobnyuk. They made it look easy. On the other end, the guy who I thought would be the weaker of the two goalies in shootouts stopped both shots by the Russians. Tokarski did get lucky on Dmitri Kugryshev’s shot which actually hit the post but he takes full credit for stoning Pavel Chernov.
It was a dramatic way to end a very dramatic game and I kind of wish that this was the finals. Canada won’t be able to top the drama of their last two games against Sweden on Monday, or at least, I’m hoping for a fairly easy win. No more dramatic games, please. I can’t take any more!
Now, if you excuse me, I have to fix my thermostat thing becuase my sister broke it while freaking out over the shootouts. For a person who hates the Habs and doesn’t really like hockey all that much, she was very into this game.
I’m going to steal a quote that was posted on the Habs Inside/Out site. Technically I’m actually stealing it from Seneca but whatever. It goes: “Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.”
You wanted adversity. There it was. Well, actually, I didn’t want adversity at all but who said that life was easy? Team Canada faced their toughest test of the entire tournament. And they came through it. I hope the Hammies filled Habbies team were watching that game. Because that was one amazing effort.
Now they just have to do it one more time.