Hockey Canada

Kovalchuk scores OT winner as Russia wins Gold

{eot} Staff
5/18/2008 9:47:39 PM
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Ilya Kovalchuk has broken Canadian hearts by scoring the tying and winning goals to capture the Gold medal for Russia at the IIHF World Championship, beating Canada 5-4 in overtime.

The Atlanta Thrashers' sniper wired a powerplay goal past Cam Ward just 2:42 into the extra frame with Rick Nash sitting in the penalty box serving a two-minute minor for delay of game.

"God was on our side a little more than them," Kovalchuk told the Canadian Press. "In overtime, they take that penalty - that's the new rules. I don't know if it's good or it's bad but it worked for us."

The goal was extra sweet for Kovalchuk, who returned to the Russian lineup after serving a one game suspension for a match penalty in the Quarter-finals against Switzerland.  The goal was Kovalchuk's second of the game and the his only two of the tournament as the former Rocket Richard trophy winner found his form at the right time for the Russians.

The Gold medal is the first for Russia since winning the World Championship in Germany in 1993.  Despite the losing effort, Canada's Dany Heatley was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player and the top forward.

"Team Canada's won a ton of these and you're going to lose once and awhile," said captain Shane Doan. "Unfortunately, it was tonight. That's the way it goes.

"We've won I don't know how many in a row. It's tough to keep winning that many in a row."

After looking a tad shaky through the first two periods, Russian goalie Evgeni Nabokov came up huge for the Russians down the stretch by repeatedly stoning the Canadian snipers.  He was named the top goaltender of the tournament with Canada's Brent Burns collecting the top defenceman honours.

"We really sat back in the second half (of the game)," said Rick Nash. "You have a two-goal lead in the gold medal game going into the third period - we had to play better."

Despite the award, Burns curiously did not make the tournament All-Star team, instead teammate Mike Green and the Czech Republic's Tomas Kaberle took his place on the team blueline.  Nabokov eaned the honours between the pipes while Heatley, Nash and Alex Ovechkin comprised the All-Star forward line.

"Nobody on this team came here to win silver," said Ward. "It's tough right not because you do feel like you've let your country down. There will be other tournaments, there will be more to come. We've got to keep our head up high.

"We have an excellent program."

Heading into the third period with a 4-2 lead, Canada appeared to be headed to their second consecutive World Championship. However, Russia stormed back to even the score at four apiece thanks to third period goals by Alexei Tereschenko and Kovalchuk.

Kovalchuk snapped his first goal of the tournament past a screened Cam Ward with just over five minutes remaining in the third period to send this one to the extra period.

Washington Capitals' forward Alexander Semin opened the scoring just one-minute and twenty three seconds into the game as he banged home a feed from Ovechkin.

"Right now we are the champions of the world and it feels so great," said Ovechkin. "It's really special to win here because this is hockey and it's a hockey-mad country.

"It just feels wonderful. It feels so great."

Canada then tied the score when defenceman Burns' point shot eluded Nabokov.

With Prime Minister Stephen Harper in attendance, Chris Kunitz gave Canada their first lead of the game by blowing a slap shot past Nabokov for his second goal and 7th point of the tournament.

Burns then added his second marker of the contest on a 5-on-3 powerplay to give Canada a 3-1 lead in the first period.  Russia immediately called a timeout following the goal, as coach Vycheslav Bykov attempted to calm his troops.

The two goals in the game for Burns equaled the cumulative total of the entire Russian blueline corps for the tournament.

With the second period barely underway, Semin scored his second goal of the game and sixth of the tournament on the power play to pull Russia to within one.

Heatley added to the Canadian lead half-way through the second period with a historic tally to make it 4-2.

Heatley's 12th goal of the tournament surpassed Eric Lindros' 1993 mark for most goals scored by a member of team Canada in one World Championship.

With a goal and an assist in the game, Heatley also increased his tournament leading scoring totals to 12 goals and eight assists for 20 points.  That ties Heatley with Team Canada's general manager Steve Yzerman for the most points scored in a single tournament.  Stevie Y set the mark in 1990.

Russia held a slight advantage in shots on goal at 32-29.  The Russians were 2-for-4 in power play opportunities while Canada's top ranked PP unit throughout the tournament struggled, going 1-for-6.

Russia was particularly undisciplined through the first two periods; accumulating 12 minutes in penalties with defenceman Vitali Proshkin having a particularly difficult game.  He picked up six minutes in penalties in the first period alone, including a high-sticking double-minor that lead to Burns' second goal. 

By picking up the silver medal, both Heatley and Doan tie Sean Burke's mark for most medals collected at the World Championship with four.

Despite the loss, Canada will be number one in the world rankings that determine placing for the 2010 Olympics.  With the victory Russia will jump into a second place tie with Sweden after entering the tournament in 5th place.



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