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Top of the World for Three Caps

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
Three members of the Washington Capitals skated off with World Championship gold medals on Sunday in Quebec City. Team Russia rebounded from a 4-2 third period deficit in the gold medal game against Canada to earn a 5-4 overtime win on Ilya Kovalchuk’s game-winner at 2:42 of the extra session in the gold medal game. Kovalchuk also supplied the tying tally in regulation.

Two members of the Caps – Russia’s Alex Ovechkin and Canada’s Mike Green – gained tournament all-star recognition.

Caps wingers Ovechkin and Alexander Semin and center Sergei Fedorov were all key cogs for Team Russia, which claimed its first gold medal at the World Championship since 1993.

The loss by tournament host Canada keeps alive a string of gold medal failures by hosting countries. The last team to win the gold on its own soil was Russia in 1986 at Moscow.

Ovechkin represented his country in the tournament for the fifth time and earned tournament all-star recognition for the second time. With 12 points (six goals, six assists) in nine games, he finished in a tie for sixth place in tournament scoring. Ovechkin now has 19 goals and 34 points in 38 career tournament games.

Semin netted a pair of goals in Sunday’s gold medal game. With 13 points (six goals, seven assists) he led Team Russia in scoring and finished in a tie for third among all skaters. Semin’s plus-11 was tied for fourth in the tournament.

Fedorov had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) to finish in a tie for sixth on the tournament scoring list. His plus-10 was tied for seventh best in the tournament.

Green also had 12 points (four goals, eight assists) to finish in a tie for sixth in tournament scoring and give the Caps four of the tourney’s top eight scorers. Green led all defensemen in scoring for the tournament.

Russia’s gold medal performance broke Canada’s 17-game tournament winning streak and ended a long string of tournament disappointments.

The former Soviet Union was an international hockey powerhouse for decades. The U.S.S.R. won World Championship gold 22 times from 1954-90. The Soviets also took seven silver medals and four bronzes during that period. Fedorov was a 20-year-old pup with no NHL experience in 1990 when he skated for the last Soviet gold medal team in the World Championship. His appearance in this spring’s tournament was his first in 18 years.

Russia has not had a great deal of success since it debuted in the tournament with a fifth-place finish in 1992. The Russians have now claimed two gold medals, one silver and a pair of bronzes in the last 17 years. Three of those six medals were earned in the last four years.

Finland took the bronze medal, defeating archrival Sweden for third place on May 17. Finland’s only gold medal finish in the World Championship came in 1995, but the Finns have now medaled in three straight tournaments, taking a silver (in 2007) and two bronzes.

The 2009 IIHF World Championship will be contested in the cities of Berne and Zurich, Switzerland.

Here is how the Capitals’ participants fared in the tournament:

Alex Ovechkin (Russia) –
He had six goals and 12 points and was plus-11 in nine games while averaging 17:03 in ice time. Ovechkin was named his team’s best player in a qualifying round game against Sweden. He scored the game-winner with six seconds remaining to give Russia a 3-2 win in that contest. Ovechkin was tied for second among all tournament participants in goals, he was tied for sixth in scoring and tied for fourth in plus/minus.

Alexander Semin (Russia) –
Was named best Russian player for the game in his team’s 7-1 win over Italy in preliminary round play. Semin had two goals and an assist and was a plus-4 in that game. Overall, Semin had six goals, 13 points and was plus-11 while skating an average of 18:19. Semin was tied for sixth on the tournament scoring chart and tied for fourth in plus/minus.

Sergei Fedorov (Russia) – Had five goals and 12 points in nine games and was plus-10 while averaging 17.30. Fedorov was named Team Russia’s top performer in its win over Denmark. He had a goal and an assist in that game. Fedorov was tied for sixth among all tournament skaters in scoring and was tied for seventh in plus/minus.

Simeon Varlamov (Russia) –
Injured in pre-tournament practice and sidelined for the tournament.

Mike Green (Canada) – Had four goals and 12 points and was plus-2 while averaging 14:29 in nine games. Green’s 12 points led all defensemen in the tournament. He was named Team Canada’s top player in the semifinal game against Sweden, a game in which he recorded a goal and three points.

Sami Lepisto (Finland) – Had a goal and two points and was plus-2 while skating an average of 13:56 in seven games. Lepisto’s lone goal was the overtime game-winner in Team Finland’s quarterfinal victory over Team USA. Lepisto earned a bronze medal in the 2008 World Championship.

Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden) – Had three goals and seven points and was plus-1 in Sweden’s eight games. Backstrom was named his team’s best player in its overtime medal round victory over the Czech Republic. He averaged 19:02 and was tied for third on the team in scoring. With a 58.56% face-off success rate in the tournament, Backstrom ranked 14th among all players.

Tomas Fleischmann (Czech Republic) –
Had two goals and five points and is plus-6 while averaging 12:31 in seven games. Fleischmann’s plus-6 was tied for 16th among all players in the tournament.

Jakub Klepis (Czech Republic) – Had an assist and was even while averaging 10:49 in four games.

Cristobal Huet (France) – Was named best Team France player in his team’s 4-1 loss to Switzerland. Stopped 44 of the 48 shots he faced in that game. Huet defeated Italy twice in relegation play to help keep France from being relegated to Division I play for the 2009 tournament. For the tournament, Huet was 2-3 with a 3.60 goals against average and a .911 save pct. He ranks seventh among all tournament netminders in save pct.

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