Team Canada battled back all night, forcing overtime in a game that saw them trail 2-0, 3-1, 4-3 and 5-4. But, 1:35 into the extra period, Valeri Nichushkin put the Russians up one last time in a heartbreaking 6-5 overtime loss in the Bronze Medal game, ending Canada’s streak of earning a medal in 14 straight years at the World Junior Championship.
Canadian starting goaltender Jordan Binnington was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals on five shots. He was replaced by Malcolm Subban, who made 17 saves on the 20 shots he faced in relief.
Captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked up a goal and three assists in the losing effort.
Just 3:31 in, Jordan Binnington’s night got off to a shaky start as Alexander Khokhlachyov put the home side up 1-0. Khokhlachyov’s off-the-rush, wide-angle wrist shot caught the goalie’s right pad, but squeaked underneath and in as he shuffled across to corral it.
An undisciplined play by Boone Jenner put Russia on the power-play moments later. Thirty-one seconds into the advantage, Nail Yakupov collected a cross-ice feed and made no mistake in cashing into the empty net to Binnington’s left.
Having established a 2-0 lead by the 4:57 mark, Binnington had only made one save on three Russian shots; as a result, Team Canada Head Coach Steve Spott was forced to use his timeout in effort to settle everyone down.
On the very next shift, Ryan Strome made a move to the slot and a prime scoring chance was nullified as he was hauled down by Yevgeni Mozer. Shortly into the ensuing power-play, Edmonton Oilers star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins unleashed a wicked blocker-side wrist shot on Andrey Makarov to bring Canada back into the game.
But, even that drastic swing in momentum was a short-lived high; Russia got it back within seconds, re-establishing its two-goal lead at 7:54. A clean, Vladimir Tkachyov faceoff win allowed Kirill Dyakov to put a quick, long-range shot on goal. Again, Binnington couldn’t come with a timely save as Russia went up 3-1.
Five shots. Two saves. There was no second-guessing this time — Binnington’s night was over as Malcolm Subban was called in to replace him.
Subban, who posted a 4-1 record, 2.20 goal-against average and .962 save percentage in the Preliminary Round, was sensational early on. Facing a pair of opportunities by Nikita Kucherov in close, Subban made it look easy.
The saves proved vital, too. After being on the receiving end of a roughing minor to Khokhlachyov, Jonathan Huberdeau made it a 3-2 game. Ryan Murphy’s point shot caught iron on Makarov’s blocker side, but the puck popped to the other where Huberdeau had the entire 6’x4′ in his sights.
Trailing 3-2, Canada led 10-9 in shots after one.
On yet another power-play chance early in the period, Canada scored its third goal in as many opportunities. Nugent-Hopkins picked up his third point of the night, dishing a pretty feed to Mark Scheifele at the goalmouth. The Winnipeg Jets prospect made a quick step to the middle before sliding it home, completing the comeback and making it a 3-3 game.
1:07 later, Mozer got it right back. Canadian rearguard Tyler Wotherspoon stepped up to block a shot, but Mozer was quick to action, scooping up the rebound and beating Subban with a quick, glove-side shot.
12:53 into the second and with Albert Yarullin in the box serving an interference penalty, Ryan Murphy’s bounce-back night continued, scoring Canada’s fourth power-play goal of the game to bring the teams back on even terms in a 4-4 game.
Canadian captain Nugent-Hopkins factored in once again with an assist.
Heading into the third, there hadn’t been a goal since Murphy’s power-play marker with 7:07 to play — the longest stretch of the night without one. But, as settled as the action had become, a late-period hooking penalty to Strome gave the Russians a power-play; 1:43 of which would be carried over into the third.
With only 41 seconds remaining in Strome’s minor, Russia restored the lead as a cross-crease feed connected with Yakupov at the doorstep. The 19-year-old wasted little time in one-touching the puck past an outstretched Subban to make it a 5-4 game.
Still trailing by one as the period’s 10-minute mark approached, Murphy was sent off for high-sticking. Doing what neither team rarely could Saturday, Canada killed it off.
At 10:46, Brett Ritchie pulled Canada back even — at even strength, no less. Spotty coverage by the Russians allowed Ritchie to swoop in and poke the loose puck across the line behind a defenceless (literally) Makorov.
At the other end, Subban was still brilliant. With under six minutes to play, he robbed his Belleville Bulls (OHL) teammate, Edmonton Oilers prospect Daniil Zharkov with a stunning glove save to preserve the 5-5 score.
Ritchie nearly did it again with under 3:00 to play, combining with linemates Jenner and Phillip Danault, but a scrambly sequence that saw Makorov swimming in the crease resulted in a goal post.
Overtime will last a maximum of 10 minutes and will be played 4-on-4.
1:35 into OT, Valeri Nichushkin ends it. With speed down the wing, Nichushkin burned around Ryan Murphy and cut across the crease, sliding the puck past Subban for the winning goal.
— Ryan Dittrick, Edmonton Oil Kings | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick