EDITOR'S NOTE: Blue Jackets prospect Dillon Heatherington (Swift Current, WHL) won gold with Team Canada at the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship in Toronto on Sunday.
TORONTO -- Canada and Russia scripted yet another wild and unexpected chapter in their storied rivalry before a packed house at Air Canada Centre in the gold-medal game of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship on Monday.
The Canadians triggered a celebration five years in the making following a 5-4 victory to earn its 16th gold medal in the country's history and first since 2009 at this tournament.
After spotting Canada a four-goal lead, Russia pulled within one with three unanswered goals in a span of 3:16 in the second period.
But Canada would not be denied.
"To be on top with the gold medal is absolutely amazing; it's something I've always dreamed of," Canada defenseman Josh Morrissey said. "There were some pretty tense moments for the fans and I'm sure for the viewers at home. It was one of the more crazy games I've ever been a part of, but that's junior hockey.
"It's so exciting. [Coach Benoit Groulx] was able to calm us down and we did our job after that."
Canada entered the game having outscored the opposition 34-5 in six straight wins. Russia barely missed equaling that total in the biggest game of the tournament.
Canada got goals by Max Domi (Arizona Coyotes), Anthony Duclair (New York Rangers), Nick Paul (Ottawa Senators), Connor McDavid (2015 draft eligible) and Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres).
McDavid, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, was all smiles while wearing his gold medal during postgame interviews.
"This means everything," he said. "That's the biggest win of my life so far and I'm sure it's going to remain that way at least for a while."
Dmitri Yudin (2015 draft eligible), Ivan Barbashev (St. Louis Blues), Sergei Tolchinski (Carolina Hurricanes) and Nikolai Goldobin (San Jose Sharks) scored for Russia.
"When we were coming back our coach was telling us we could do it; just be a team," Goldobin said. "We really thought it was our time, but it was disappointing."
Reinhart's fifth goal of the tournament 12:30 into the second that gave Canada a 5-1 lead proved to be the game-winner. Canada goalie Zachary Fucale (Montreal Canadiens) made 26 saves, including all 11 shots he faced in the third.
"[Fucale] came out in the third there with all that pressure on his shoulders and made some huge saves, especially after the way the second period went for us," Morrissey said. "He calmed us down. He's a very calm guy. He's talking all the time and was just able to calm us down and make some huge saves."
The game took an eerily familiar page out of the previous two medal round offensive slugfests between these teams. In the 2014 bronze medal game, Russia defeated Canada 6-5. In the semifinal round of the 2012 WJC, Canada rallied from a 6-1 deficit, but ultimately lost 6-5.
"At 5-1, Russia could have packed it in and said goodbye but they were here for a fight and obviously they came back and we had to refocus and thought did a great job overall," Groulx said. "It was a great game and what a way to finish it and win a gold medal."
As Russia mounted its comeback, there was a sense in the arena, and along press row, that the country was on the verge of topping its incredible comeback in the gold-medal game at the 2011 WJC in in Buffalo. In that game, Russia scored five unanswered goals in the third period in a stunning 5-3 win.
"Guys were down, but I knew there was tons of time left and with the group we had, we stuck with it and stayed the course and played the Canadian way," Lazar said. "We killed a penalty [to Reinhart, hooking] to open the third, regrouped and started rolling from there."
Russia started to rally late in the second when Barbashev scored a power-play goal at 14:21 to help his team pull within 5-2. Tolchinski made it 5-3 when he converted a 2-on-1 at the right post with Goldobin 32 seconds later. The Russians then made it a one-goal deficit at 17:37 when Goldobin connected for a power-play goal off a pass from Tolchinski. The fourth Russian goal forced Groulx to call a timeout.
"The third period was one of those periods where you're not looking at the clock too much," McDavid said. "You're just hoping and holding on. We did a great job defending."
McDavid scored his third goal of the tournament in early the second off a breakaway for a 3-1 lead. After getting a great lead pass from defenseman Morrissey at the Russia blue line, McDavid skated uncontested down the middle and sent a shot between the pads of Ilya Sorokin (New York Islanders).
"We didn't panic or certainly tried not to panic throughout the game," McDavid said. "We stuck with it and we tried not to sit back in the third. The third was the fastest period by far in our minds."
Domi ignited the home crowd when he lined a shot from the left circle that beat Sorokin to the far side at 7:22 for a 4-1 lead. Domi, the son of former Toronto Maple Leafs fan favorite Tie Domi, raised his arms in celebration while the fans gave him a rousing ovation.
"I'm never going to forget this or forget this team," Domi said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience that we're all lucky enough to be a part of. It's awesome. No matter what happens in our lives, we're always going to remember this."
Reinhart, who was splendid throughout the tournament, made it 5-1 when he deftly deflected a shot between the pads of Sorokin at 12:30 off a pass from Domi.
Russia pulled within 2-1 in the first when Dmitri Yudin (2015 draft eligible) sent a shot from the left circle that hit the far post and went into the net at 9:20. Fans were barely sitting after giving the announced Canadian starters a standing ovation when Duclair one-timed a shot past starter Igor Shesterkin (New York Rangers) 23 seconds into the game.
Domi made the play happen when he picked up a loose puck and skated behind the Russia net before sending a pass to Duclair low in the left circle. It was 2:09 later when Paul converted a 2-on-1 breakout with Brayden Point, tipping home a lead pass inside the right post.
Russia coach Valeri Bragin didn't waste any time replacing Shesterkin (two goals allowed on three shots) with Sorokin following Paul's goal at 2:32.
"I can't really put this into words right now, it's a dream come true," Domi said. "You grow up watching this tournament every year at Christmas time with the family and to now be a part of it and win a gold medal is outstanding."