Canada edges Russia in semis; advances to gold medal final Staff

1/4/2009 2:32:17 AM

The Drive For Five is alive and well.

Jordan Eberle scored two goals and the shootout winner to end another classic showdown as Canada edged Russia 6-5 in their semifinal game at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

"You rarely want to be in a situation like that where a tournament is on the line," said defenceman PK Subban. "But you can't say enough about Jordan Eberle and Dustin Tokarski - they really stepped up for us today."

With the win, Canada advances to Monday's gold medal final and faces Sweden in a rematch of last year's final in Pardubice, Czech Republic (TSN, TSN HD and on Monday at 7pm et/4pm pt). Canada beat the Swedes 3-2 in overtime for the country's fourth straight gold medal and also beat them in exhibition play in a 4-2 win in Toronto on Dec. 19. The host nation will attempt a fifth straight gold medal and tie the record for consecutive golds set between 1993 and 1997.

"We're definitely happy that we won, but we have to keep it in perspective," said forward John Tavares. "We know what our ultimate goal is and when that happens, I'll put on a big smile."

While Canada's memorable game against the Americans on Wednesday saw them come back from an early three-goal deficit, the semifinal game was a nail-biter with the scoring going back and forth for the full 60 minutes. "The crowd kept us in it," Eberle told TSN. "Every time we scored they took our momentum away and they just kept us back up until we could get our momentum going."

Canada kicked off the scoring parade first when Brett Sonne notched his first goal of the tournament just two minutes in. The Russians then got on the board when Maxim Goncharov replied just three minutes later to even the score at a goal apiece.

The Canadian squad then re-gained the lead on a goal by Patrice Cormier, but Russia bounced back again when Dmitry Klopov scored as Cormier's goal was being announced.

After going 18-30 in their first four games, Canada's power play struggled early on going goalless in their first five chances. But with a two-man advantage in the second, they finally capitalized when Eberle beat a sprawling Vadim Zhelobnyuk under the pads to give Canada its third lead of the game.

The Russians responded in kind in the third, with Evgeny Grachev beating Dustin Tokarski through the five-hole just 51 seconds into the period. Things didn't get easier with Canada on the penalty kill just four minutes later, but Angelo Esposito's shorthanded breakaway goal gave the four-time defending gold medallists their fourth lead of the game. With the Russians still on the power play, PK Subban took a tripping penalty that allowed them to even things up again on a goal by Sergei Andronov. Klopov then gave Russia the lead with his second goal of the game at 17:40.

But with Tokarski pulled out for the extra attacker with just over a minute to go, Eberle added his second of the night with just 5.4 seconds left to force overtime and send the crowd of 19,327 into a frenzy. "It was a good play," said Eberle. "It was a 6-on-5 and just scrambling hockey. You just throw the puck at the net and hope something happens."

With no scoring in the 10-minute extra period, the sold-out crowd in Kanata was treated to a dramatic shootout that saw both Eberle and Tavares score. Tokarski then stopped Dmitri Kugryshev and Pavel Chernov to secure the victory.

"We worked with our goalie coach on some of their goalie's tendencies," Eberle explained. "Johnny and I figured if we were going to go to a shootout we would go to our backhand and put it upstairs and it worked out for us."

Canada is now 3-0 in shootouts at the World Juniors, and with Sonne and Cormier earning their first goals, 16 different Canadian players have now scored a goal in the tournament.

Canada's blueline corps got a scare in the second period when Tyler Myers was forced to leave the game after taking a point shot off his knee on a penalty kill. He returned for the third and is expected to play in the gold medal final.

The semifinal showdown marked the eighth time in the last decade that Canada and Russia have met in a medal-round game at the world junior tournament. While Russia is 4-4 over that span, Canada has now won four in a row. Russia's last win over Canada was in 2003 - a 3-2 victory in the gold medal game in Halifax.

The Russians will play Slovakia for bronze on Monday afternoon (TSN, TSN HD and at 3:30pm et/12:30pm pt).