Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin were part of one of the most famous international showdowns in hockey history, the championship game between Canada and Russia at the 2005 World Junior Championship.
Crosby and Canada defeated Ovechkin and Russia 6-1 that day. Since then, they've faced each other dozens of times during the NHL regular season, as well as in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the 2010 and '14 Olympics. But they haven't met with a championship on the line. That will change Sunday when Crosby and Canada try to dethrone Ovechkin and defending champion Russia by winning in the gold-medal game at the IIHF World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic (2:45 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN). It follows the bronze-medal game between the United States and the Czech Republic (10:15 a.m. ET).
Each player is in Prague because his team was eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the New York Rangers. Crosby was named Canada's captain shortly after the Pittsburgh Penguins lost in five games in the first round; Ovechkin flew to Prague in time to score a goal and add an assist in Russia's 4-0 semifinal victory against the United States on Saturday after he and the Washington Capitals lost Game 7 of their second-round series in New York on Wednesday.
Crosby had an assist in undefeated Canada's 2-0 victory against the Czech Republic in the first semifinal. Though Crosby hasn't been among the team’s top scorers, Canada has scored a tournament-high 60 goals in winning each of its nine games.
However, Canada hasn't won gold at the Worlds since 2007. Russia has won four times since then, including championship-game victories against Canada in 2008 and '09. Russia also defeated Slovakia to win in 2012 and downed Finland last year; that team was captained by Ovechkin.
"It's been a while since Canada has been in the finals, and we are aware of that," Canadian forward Taylor Hall [Edmonton Oilers] said, according to The Associated Press. "There are a lot of guys on this team looking for their first world championship."
One of them is Crosby, who can become the 27th member (25 players and coach Mike Babcock) of the Triple Gold club, who have won a World Championship gold medal, an Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup. This is Crosby's first time at the Worlds since 2006, his first season in the NHL.
Russia's victory Saturday avenged a preliminary-round loss to the U.S. The goal by Ovechkin, who arrived in Prague on Friday, was the second of four by the Russians in the third period after the teams played scoreless hockey for more than 47 minutes.
"The first couple of periods I didn't feel really well," Ovechkin said, according to the AP. "In the third, my legs started working."
Ovechkin also had an assist when he passed up an empty-net goal and fed Evgeni Malkin, Crosby's teammate with the Penguins.
Former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk, Russia's captain in this tournament, is eager for the showdown.
"It's always great in a final when Russia and Canada play," Kovalchuk said, according to the IIHF website. "It will be very interesting. I think it will be a very exciting game. I'm excited."
Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets) made 35 saves for Russia against the U.S. and is looking forward to having a chance to help Russia defend its title by defeating one of its biggest rivals.
"Tomorrow will be a really hard game," Bobrovsky said, according to the IIHF website. "We need to rest well tonight, and tomorrow will be the most important game of our lives."