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World Juniors

Finland defeats United States to win World Junior Championship

Kakko breaks tie with 1:26 remaining in third period

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

VANCOUVER -- Kaapo Kakko scored with 1:26 remaining in the third period to help Finland defeat the United States 3-2 and win the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena on Saturday.

Kakko (2019 NHL Draft eligible) gained position at the left post and scored his second goal of the tournament off a backhand to give Finland its fifth title. 

"It was a big win and for sure a great feeling to get the winning goal," Kakko said through an interpreter. "It was a great feeling. There's no words."

Jesse Ylonen (Montreal Canadiens) and Otto Latvala (2019 NHL Draft eligible) scored, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo Sabres) made 25 saves for Finland, which finished sixth in 2018 and ninth in 2017.

"We showed at the end of the tournament why we are one of the best teams," Luukkonen said. "We have grown up as players and a group."

Luukkonen's best save came 9:47 into the third period with the game tied 2-2 when he stopped Jack Hughes (2019 NHL Draft eligible) on a breakaway with his pads.

Alexander Chmelevski (San Jose Sharks) and Joshua Norris (Ottawa Senators) scored, and Cayden Primeau (Canadiens) made 28 saves for the United States. 

"It's tough because we didn't get the result we wanted, but looking back on it we'll be able to see that we did it for our country and each other, and we'll be able to see that winning silver is hard to do in a tournament like this," Primeau said.

On Kakko's game-winner, Primeau said he thought the puck was between his legs but it squirted out.

"I just tried to close it up, but the rebound came right out," he said. "It was on the outside and he just got to the rebound." 

Finland earned its 16th medal and won for the first time since 2016. It has won 17 of 34 games against the United States, including one tie, in the tournament. The U.S. won its 12th medal.

"The big thing for us was winning in a small rink," Finland coach Jussi Ahokas said. "We haven't done that before, and now we have done that also. That's a big thing for Finnish hockey; we're producing more better players."

Video: Breaking down the USA's gold medal loss to Finland

Chmelevski and Norris each scored in a span of 1:46 in the third period to pull the United States into a 2-2 tie. 

Chmelevski scored off a loose puck at the left post at 7:01 to make it 2-1, and Norris scored off a pass from Hughes at 8:47 for a 2-2 tie. 

Ylonen scored a power-play goal off a slap shot from the top of the left circle to give Finland a 1-0 lead 11:31 into the second period. Latvala made it 2-0 off a shot from the right point 6:00 into the third period. 

After finishing third in Group B, Finland defeated Canada (2-1 in overtime), Switzerland (6-1) and the United States. When asked if he thought his country entered the playoffs as underdogs, defenseman Henri Jokiharju (Chicago Blackhawks) laughed.

"Not really," he said. "I just heard we were underdogs. I thought it was funny so say 'Hi' for them right now. This is the best moment so far of my career."

Finland, which finished sixth on the power play (5-of-25, 20 percent), was 1-for-3 with the man-advantage. The U.S. was 0-for-5 on the power play and finished second (7-for-27, 25.93 percent).

"Luukkonen was tremendous, and I don't know how many shots we blocked but everybody was ready to block some shots," Finland defenseman Oskari Laaksonen (Sabres) said. "I think we just worked so hard on the PK and didn't allow a lot of scoring chances."

Said U.S. captain Michael Anderson: "I thought we had some chances on the power play but we didn't bear down and finish them. They had a couple of big blocks. At the end of the day we have to try and bury some of those."

Oliver Wahlstrom (New York Islanders) thought he had given the United States a 1-0 lead when he scored a power-play goal 9:45 into the first period, but the referee immediately waved off the goal and confirmed the call after a video review revealed Chmelevski was in the crease. 

Luukkonen, who lost 4-1 to the United States on Dec. 31, finished with a 1.80 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in six games. Primeau (1.61 GAA, .936 save percentage in five games) lost his first match of the tournament.

"We came together three weeks ago and decided we all wanted the same thing," said U.S. forward Ryan Poehling, who was named tournament MVP. "Some things in life don't go your way. I'm proud of the group we had and what we accomplished. At the end of the day we played hard."

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