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Nichushkin's OT goal ends Canada's WJC medal run

by Adam Kimelman

It wasn't the medal it wanted, but Russia gave the home fans something to celebrate with a thrilling 6-5 overtime win against Canada on Saturday in the bronze-medal game of the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa.

Valeri Nichushkin scored 1:35 into overtime as Russia won the bronze medal for the first time since 2009.

The loss snapped Canada's streak of 14 straight years with a World Junior medal. The previous time Canada failed to take home WJC hardware was 1998, when it finished eighth.

"I'm obviously disappointed," Ryan Nugent-Hopkins told TSN. "All the guys in the room are. We battled hard, but obviously fourth is not something that Canada does."

Russia captain Nail Yakupov scored a pair of goals, Kirill Dyakov had a goal and an assist, and Alexander Khokhlachev and Yevgeni Mozer also scored. Goalie Andrey Makarov stopped 40 of 45 shots.

"We didn't win the gold medal, but we won bronze at home, so it's good news for us and for Russia," Yakupov told the IIHF website. "I want to say thanks to my team. I love my team."

Nugent-Hopkins had a goal and three assists, and defenseman Ryan Murphy had a goal and two assists for Canada. Malcolm Subban, who replaced starter Jordan Binnington in the first period, made 17 saves on 20 shots.

Despite the loss, Canada coach Steve Spott said he was proud of the effort his team put forth.

"You can only judge your team by their work ethic and their character and, ultimately, I thought tonight we left everything we had on the table," he told TSN. "Our kids played extremely hard and I'm proud of the fact we battled to our maximum.

"They [the players] have been great. They've come to work every day, they've battled hard, they've competed hard, they paid attention, they've done their best. Ultimately we fell short. But I can say, other than the American game [a 5-1 loss in the semifinals], which is going to sting all of us for a long time, I thought today the effort was there, the compete was there. Once you get to overtime it's tough. Ultimately we lost a tough game."

Canada's Brett Ritchie scored midway through the third period to force overtime, but early in the extra session it was a strong individual effort by Nichushkin that won the game for Russia.

Vladimir Tkachev won a faceoff in the Russia end and slid the puck to Artem Sergeev, who spotted Nichushkin flying out of the zone. Nichushkin, rated by NHL Central Scouting as the top Russian skater eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft, took the puck and steamed up the right side. He stepped around Canada defenseman Ryan Murphy, cut to the net and stuffed the puck inside the far post just ahead of Subban sealing the post with his skate.

"We gave everything today and that's why we won," Yakupov said. "It's life. It's hockey. We probably lost some energy against Switzerland and then Sweden, that was tough. Today in the third period everybody still felt a little tired, but we worked hard and we gave 100 percent."

The game was tied 4-4 after a wild first two periods that saw six of the eight goals scored on the man-advantage.

Yakupov, the Russian captain, scored his second of the game one minute into the third period with Russia skating a man up after Ryan Strome had been assessed a hooking penalty with 18 seconds left in the second. Russia won a puck battle along the boards behind the Canada net, with Kirill Kapustin emerging with the puck. He skated into the slot and found Yakupov open on the left side and slipped him the puck. Yakupov scored easily to give Russia the lead.

Ritchie tied the game with his first of the tournament at 10:46. Phillip Danault's long shot from the left side was stopped by Makarov, but the rebound went to Canada defenseman Scott Harrington, who tried to drag the puck through traffic in the slot. The puck bounced off a Russian player but went right to Ritchie, who scored Canada's lone even-strength goal from in close to tie the game 5-5.

Mark Scheifele nearly put Canada ahead with about 2:40 left, but his shot from in close hit the post and rolled under Makarov, who was able to clear the puck out of danger.

"The puck ended up on my stick and I released it quickly, trying to catch the goalie off guard," Scheifele told the IIHF website. "It was a tough bounce, hitting off the outside of the post."

Russia took a 2-0 lead in the first 4:57 of the game as Khokhlachev and Yakupov opened the scoring. Khokhlachev's low shot from the right circle squeezed under Binnington's right pad and trickled into the net 3:31 into the game.

After a roughing penalty on Canada's Boone Jenner, Yakupov made it 2-0 1:26 later when he played the puck off the right wall, skated to the net and took a return cross-ice pass from Albert Yarullin for a back-door tap-in goal at 4:57.

Canada finally got on the board after a penalty to Mozer. Makarov stopped Murphy's shot from the point, but as Russia tried to clear the puck, it bounced off Scheifele and went to Nugent-Hopkins. His shot from the high slot beat Makarov at 6:58.

Any momentum gained, however, was lost 56 seconds later when Dyakov scored. Tkachev beat Mark McNeill on a faceoff in the right circle, winning the puck back to Dyakov one stride inside the blue line. The Russian defenseman fired a shot that went between the legs of Canada forward Nathan MacKinnon and past Binnington at 7:55.

That marked the end of Binnington's game after allowing three goals on five shots. Canada coach Steve Spott replaced him with Subban, who had started the previous five Canada games.

Canada cut the deficit to one goal when Jonathan Huberdeau scored a power-play goal off the rebound of a Murphy point shot at 15:51 of the first, then tied the game 3:16 into the second when Nugent-Hopkins found Scheifele alone in the slot for another power-play goal.

Russia went back ahead when Mozer jumped on a loose puck in the slot and beat Subban low to the glove side at 4:23, but Murphy scored Canada's fourth power-play goal at 13:53 to tie the game 4-4. Huberdeau passed the puck from the goal line to Murphy in the center of the ice just inside the blue line, and his shot went through a Scheifele screen and past Makarov.

Nugent-Hopkins got an assist on the goal, giving him tournament highs of 11 assists and 15 points. According to TSN, it's the most points ever scored in a tournament by a Canadian captain, topping the 13 points by David Chyzowski (1990) and Russ Courtnall (1984).

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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