It was an instant classic in Ottawa Saturday night. Canada vs Russia is arguably the greatest rivalry in the sport of hockey at all levels, and the two teams met Saturday with a World Junior gold medal game berth on the line. The game was back and forth right from the drop of the puck. Canada took the lead on 4 separate occasions, just to watch Russia take it back again.
Angelo Esposito scored a spectacular short-handed goal to put Canada ahead 4-3 in the third, and fans thought that play might take the wind out of the Russians sails. However, the Russians refused to let Canada keep the momentum, roaring back not only to tie the game, but scoring the go-ahead goal with less than 3 minutes left in the third period. Things looked dire indeed for Team Canada, who looked in jeopardy of missing the gold medal game for the first time in 8 years. But then the planets aligned for Team Canada. With approximately 40 seconds to go in the third period Russia had a chance to skate the puck out of their zone with an empty Canadian net. Instead they iced the puck, giving Canada an offensive zone face-off. Canada managed to keep the puck in the zone for the next 35 seconds, until John Tavares shoveled the puck towards the front of the net. The Russian defenseman tried to cover up the puck, but Jordan Eberle pulled the puck out of his pads, made a quick move to the backhand and tucked the puck in to give Canada the tie with a mere 5.4 seconds left in regulation.
You could see Russia visibly sag after the puck went in, and in the 10 minute overtime that followed the Russians were completely outplayed as Canada had several great chances to end the game. Canada couldn't cash in on their chances however, and after the end of the 10 minute overtime the game was off to a shootout.
In the shootout Jordan Eberle was again called on by Canada. He had scored 2 of Canada's goals, including the game-tying goal, and was definitely carrying a hot stick. Pat Quinn's hunch proved correct, as Eberle showed his incredibly quick hands, avoiding a poke check and roofing the puck on a quick deke. The first Russian in the shootout rang the puck off the post, allowing John Tavares the chance to really put the pressure on the Russians. Tavares, as he has all tournament long, came through in the clutch, deking and putting the puck off the post and in to give Canada a 2-0 lead in the shootout. Russia's second shooter came out, and everyone in the building were stunned that it was not Russia's superstar, Nikita Filatov. Instead Chernov came out, and his relatively weak attempt to try find the five-hole was easily stopped by Canadian goalie Dustin Tokarski to seal the victory for Canada.
Canada will now face Sweden on Monday at 7:00 PM Eastern time in an attempt to win their fifth consecutive World Junior gold medal. All of Canada will be on the edge of their seats and the game against the powerful Swedes should be yet another classic World Junior game.
Look for video footage of Jordan Eberle's game-tying World Junior goal. I'll have it posted up on the site shortly.