SASKATOON (CP) - An unlikely hero gave Canada a spark Wednesday night in the junior hockey Super Series with Russia.
Fourth-line grinder Dana Tyrell scored his first point of the series, a goal that propelled the Canadians past Russia 4-1 and pushed the team's record to a perfect six wins and no losses in the eight-game set.
Canada failed to execute Wednesday the way they had the first five games of the series. While they outshot the Russians 42-17, they struggled to put the puck in the net, and let several 5-on-3 power-play opportunities slip through their fingers.
Tied at one heading into the third, Tyrell said he felt an obligation to provide a spark after the coaches pep talked the team during the second intermission.
"The coaches knew that we had to step up, we weren't playing the kind of game we normally played," said the Tampa Bay draft pick who plays for the Prince George Cougars in the Western Hockey League.
"Everybody has got a role on the team and I think that is my role - to provide energy and be the hardest working player on the ice. That's one of my goals ... and that's what I did."
Linemate Zach Hamill
jumped on a dump-in midway through the third period and fed a streaking Tyrell, who managed to shovel it through Russian goalie Semen Varlamov's legs.
"I banged and crashed and I just banged in a goal," Tyrell recalled. "It was the game-winning goal so it feels really good."
The Canadians were clearly energized by the turn of events.
Brandon Sutter added an insurance marker soon after and Zach Boychuk scored with two minutes left to seal the deal.
Still, the slow first two periods were not lost on the Canadian players.
"We didn't play the way we can play," said Karl Alzner, who assisted on Canada's final two goals. "We really got to focus on not just being satisfied with the win, but being satisfied with the way we got that win.
"And tonight I am sure a few guys would say that they didn't stick to the system as much as they like to."
Canada outshot the Russians 13-2 in the first period but Varlamov - a Washington Capitals 2006 draft pick - stood tall as Canada constantly crashed the net looking for rebounds.
Canada's first goal came in the final minute of the first period, with Russian defenceman Kirill Tulupov off serving a bench minor for too many men on the ice, and Canada on a 4-on-3 power play. Defenceman Drew Doughty, who plays with Guelph in the Ontario Hockey League, leaned into a slap shot from the high slot.
Varlamov made the first save but the puck dribbled behind him and Sam Gagner banged it home.
The Russians bounced back in the second period and drew even at 4:17. With Canadian defenceman Keaton Ellerby off for holding, Russian defenceman and Dallas draft pick Ivan Vishnevsky fired a point shot home that looked like it was tipped in front of Canadian goaltender Leland Irving.
It was also Vishnevsky's first point of the tournament.
Shortly after the equalizer, the Russians took four penalties in just over two minutes, but Canada failed to capitalize on its opportunities, including a four-minute 5-on-3 advantage.
The Canadians weren't without their chances on the elongated power play. Varlamov made a dazzling cross crease glove save on Gagner and it looked like David Perron had scored from the side of the net but Varlamov managed to keep the puck from cross the line with his glove.
The shots were 26-13 in Canada's favour after the second period.
When Canada failed to capitalize on another 5-on-3 in the third period, the near capacity crowd of about 10,800 became restless.
But they wouldn't have to wait long for Tyrell to come through.
The Super Series commemorates the 35th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series between victorious Canada and the Soviet Union.
While the 1972 series was a competitive affair that made Canadians realize the strength of the Russian hockey program, this junior version has been much more one-sided.
The remaining two games are Friday in Red Deer, Alta., and Sunday in Vancouver.
The win keeps Canada's hopes alive for a sweep.
"That's what we came here for," said defenceman Luke Schenn, who is from Saskatoon and played in front of 75 of his family and friends.
"We didn't know what to expect coming in, but now that we've got six we don't want to let down at all."