A rollercoaster of emotion ended in a 3-2 Russian victory tonight in Halifax before a raucous capacity crowd, as Team Russia captured the gold medal for the second time in two years.
As was the case a year ago, the Russians defeated Canada by one goal after a third period comeback. Tonight, Canada led 2-1 entering the third period, but goals from the player-of-the-game Igor Grigorenko and Yuri Trubechev propelled the Russians to the emotional win in front of 10,583.
Canada was outshot for the first time in the tournament 31-24, and the lack of shots came back to haunt the team in the end. The Canadians could generate only four shots at goaltender Andrei Medvedev in the third frame, as the Russians looked poised while controlling the action. Grigorenko, who was voted the tournament’s top forward, was dominant throughout the game and was instrumental in the win. Had it not been for Marc-Andre Fleury’s insatiable lust for stopping the puck Grigorenko could easily have scored on a number occasions. Fleury was voted top goaltender for the tournament as well as player-of-the-game for his team.
The game featured five of the tournament’s first team all-stars, as Fleury and Grigorenko were joined by Carlo Colaiacovo, Yuri Trubachov, and Scottie Upshall. Finish defenseman Joni Pitkanen rounded out the line-up.
Russia started the game very strong and controlled the action for the first ten minutes, but Fleury was at his most spectacular keeping the Russians at bay. Russia opened the scoring at 11:17 when Andrei Taratukhin got his own rebound and put the puck through Fleury’s legs, catching him as he moved laterally. The goal appeared to wake up the Canadians who had started the game surprisingly slowly, and the team took less than a minute to knot the score. A point shot by Ian White was redirected by Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau passed goaltender Andrei Medvedev and gave the home-town crowd their first reason to react.
Canada’s line of Parenteau, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Brooks Laich established itself as the team’s best line on this night, as all three players found themselves with great opportunities throughout the game. More than any other player on the Canadian roster, Parenteau was able to find holes in the Russian defence, as was demonstrated by his goal and later assist. Medvedev’s three best saves of the night came off of shots Parenteau fired, including a breathtaking dive that preceded the first Canadian goal.
Alexander Ovechkin had an impact on the game despite his lack of scoring. The 17-year-old drew plenty Canadian attention each time he was on the ice, and he had the defence watching him as Trubechev scored the game-winning goal. Also of note, Ovechkin broke up a Canadian three-on-one late in the second period by lying on the ice motionless by the Canadian net. The referee, thinking Ovechkin might be seriously injured, whistled play dead, and Ovechkin promptly jumped to his feet and played the next shift. His theatrics drew the ire of the Halifax crowd and prompted Jordin Tootoo to unleash one of his most ferocious hits of the tournament moments later.
The second period was twenty minutes of end-to-end action with Team Canada scoring the only goal when captain Scottie Upshall netted a power-play marker at 16:22. It was the only chance Canada could generate on the power play tonight, as the Russians looked great in disposing of Canada’s man advantages. They were the only team through the whole event to control Canada’s special teams and it was the difference on this night. The power-play marker aside, Russia had many chances throughout the second period to score, none more tempting then Grigorenko’s wrap-around attempt with Fleury out of his net. Fortunately for Canada, he swept the puck through the crease and wide of the net.
The Russians also got a great chance to tie the game early in the third when Kirill Koltsov shot the puck and it hit Matt Stajan’s leg. The shot fooled Fleury, but careened off the right goal post. From that point on the Russians launched a full-scale onslaught towards the Canadian zone, with rush after rush that was thwarted by some fine Canadian defensive play. Grigorenko’s tying goal happened because defenseman Jeff Woywitka broke his stick and essentially put his team short handed.
Canada runs its all-time medal total to 22 with the loss, and also earns their third silver in five years. The team ended the tournament with a 5-1 record. Team Russia ended the tournament with a perfect 6-0 record.
The crowd in Halifax was very supportive of the Canadian effort tonight, which culminated post game with chants of ‘Fleury,’ ‘Tootoo,’ and ‘Canada.’ The crowd also respected the Russian team while they accepted their medals, and gave the team a resounding ovation as they toured the ice with their nation’s flag.