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Canada's winning streak ends at world junior championship in loss to Swedes

NHL.com @NHL

PARDUBICE, Czech Republic - The streak is over and Canada's chance for an express ticket to the semifinal at the world junior championship rests in the hands of another country.

Canada lost at the world junior hockey championship for the first time since the final of the 2004 tournament, falling 4-3 to Sweden on Saturday.

The country's tournament record of consecutive wins ended at 20.

Canada needed the victory over Sweden to finish first in Pool A, earn the bye to Friday's semifinals and the extra day of rest that affords.

Now there's a myriad of possibilities and only one do the 2-1 Canadians have any control over.

The defending champions must beat Denmark on Monday (noon ET) and hope that the Czech Republic (2-1) beats Sweden (3-0) by five goals or less, in order to finish atop the pool on goal differential at plus-2.

A Swedish victory or a Czech win by six goals or more and Canada faces a quarter-final game Wednesday.

"It leaves us the same place we were when we started," captain Karl Alzner declared. "Still wanting to win, still definitely in the hunt and that much more determined that it's one loss that shouldn't have happened and we're not going to let it happen again."

Canada's defeat resembled the country's previous loss on Jan. 5, 2004, as a young team had the lead and control of the game only to lose its grip in the third period.

"We are a young team and this is some adversity," head coach Craig Hartsburg said. "The kids are disappointed for sure, which they should be."

Sixteen of the 22 players on this team went 7-0-1 against Russia during the summer Super Series.

Canada was 3-0 in pre-tournament exhibition games and opened with back-to-back shutouts, so this is the first time their resiliency has been tested.

"The kids have to stick together," Hartsburg said. "We'll continue to try and play our best game the next game against Denmark and get ready for whatever is going to happen."

"We can't hang our heads. Nobody is pointing fingers. The kids will get stronger from this."

The U.S. (3-0) secured the bye in Pool B with a 3-2 win over Russia in Liberec.

Russia (2-1) is second with six points and Finland third with five. Russia concludes the preliminary round against Switzerland and the Finns conclude against the Americans on Monday.

The second-place team crosses over to play the third team in the other pool in the quarter-finals, which are white-knuckle affairs because if you win, you're still in contention for gold. If you lose, you're playing for fifth place at best.

This Swedish team was the biggest, fastest and hardest that Canada has been up against in years. They broke through checks and battled Canada off the puck, while pressuring the Canadians in their own zone to hamper the breakout.

The Swedish roster includes a dozen 12 NHL draft picks. Oscar Moller of the Chilliwack Bruins, Robin Figren of the Edmonton Oiler Kings and Mario Kempe of the St. John Fog Devils are the Canadian Hockey Leaguers who wear the Tre Kronor.

"We were working our asses off the whole game and showing up every shift," Figren said. "Canada is the favourite of the tournament and it's a really good team, no doubt about it so it's definitely a good feeling to beat Canada.

"Of course, we're going for gold."

Tobias Forsberg scored the winner with seven seconds left in the game from the slot off a perfect feed from Mikael Backlund, who is a first-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames.

Moller, Tony Lagerstrom and defenceman Eric Moe also scored for the Swedes, while goaltender Jhonas Enroth stopped 18 of 21 shots for the victory.

Claude Giroux of the Gatineau Olympiques, Shawn Matthias of the Belleville Bulls and Brad Marchand of the Halifax Mooseheads replied for Canada, whose run of shutout minutes to open the tournament ended at 5:14 of the third period when Moe scored a power-play goal on Bernier.

Bernier made 28 saves on 32 shots.

Canada led 2-0 early in the third, but Sweden rattled off three unanswered goals and two of them coming on the power play.

Canada countered with its own power-play goal to tie it at 16:18 when Giroux banged in a rebound.

There were signs this was going to be a rough night offensively for the Canadians as they missed a couple of golden opportunities.

But the momentum really swung to the Swedes on their second goal, which Lagerstrom shot from behind the goal-line off the back of Bernier's skate to tie it 2-2 at 6:45.

Bernier couldn't hide his dismay, but could find solace in the loss occurring during a preliminary game and not the medal round.

"It's never fun to lose a game, but if we had to lose one, it was tonight," he said. "It's not the end of the world."

Just seconds before that, Kyle Turris and Matt Halischuk were on the verge of generating a short-handed chance in which both of them would have gone in on Swedish goaltender Jhonas Enroth unchallenged. But they bobbled the puck between them.

Marchand's goal in the first period was a stellar effort in which he shook off defender Johan Motin and beat Enroth with a backhand with 55 seconds remaining in the period.

Marchand's sneaky feed from the boards gave Giroux a breakaway chance in the first period, but Giroux didn't get a clean shot away.

Canada's power play continued erratic, giving up a couple short-handed chances to the Swedes in the second period before Giroux's goal on a two-man advantage to tie the game in the third.

The Canadians' penalty kill, which hadn't given up a goal in 15 chances going into the game, was beaten twice.

Notes(at) - The Swedes lone world junior title was in 1981 . . . Canada is 20-8-1 all-time versus Sweden . . . Canada's black jerseys, helmets and gloves worn Saturday will be up for sale starting Sunday on ebay with the proceeds going to Hockey Canada's developmental programs for national teams.

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