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Petan's three goals lead Canada to gold-medal game

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- Canada will play for the gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship for the first time in four years after a 5-1 win against Slovakia at Air Canada Centre on Sunday.

Canada will play Russia on Monday in Toronto for the gold medal (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). Sweden and Slovakia will play for the bronze medal at 4 p.m. on Monday.

Nicolas Petan (Winnipeg Jets), who was placed on a line with Canada captain Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators) and Connor McDavid (draft-eligible 2015) midway through the game, led Canada with three goals.

Canada fans littered the ice with hats after Petan scored his third goal of the game.

"It was an incredible feeling," Petan said. "In the moment you don't really think about it, but years from now I'll look back on it and think it was pretty cool. It was just one of those nights where pucks were finding me."

Canada defenseman Joe Hicketts (Detroit Red Wings) said he was not the least bit surprised that Petan was able to put on such an extraordinary performance against Slovakia.

"I play against him in the Western [Hockey] League and I can tell you he is a special player," Hicketts said. "For him to come here and put on a performance like he did, it is something I expected from him."

Canada, which leads all nations with 15 gold medals in this tournament, lost against Russia in 2011 one year after losing against the United States in the gold-medal game. Since then, Canada has won one medal (bronze), which came in 2012.

Canada got a bit of a scare late in the game when McDavid collided with a Slovakian player near center ice and appeared to be shaken up as he skated to the bench. McDavid thought Lazar may have had a hand in the collision.

"I'm fine," McDavid said. "Curt likes to throw the weight around and I was coming back on the guy and he wanted to hit him and just got mixed up, but I'm fine."

Canada left wing Max Domi (Arizona Coyotes) also was hit hard late in the game, but said he was not injured.

The Canadians, who are 6-0, opened the scoring at 4:27 of the first period when Petan snapped a high shot over the glove of Slovakian goalie Denis Godla from in tight with Slovakia's David Soltes in the penalty box for tripping. It was Petan's second goal of the tournament.

Each team had six shots on goal in the first period, and Canada goalie Zachary Fucale (Montreal Canadiens) made superb saves on Peter Cehlarik (Boston Bruins) from in tight at 8:30 and Pavol Skalicky on a breakaway with a pad save at 14:44.

Petan made it 2-0 at 18:06 of the second period when his shot got under the crossbar after Canada defenseman Darnell Nurse started the play by moving the puck up the ice.

Canada increased its lead to 3-0 1:26 later with defenseman Shea Theodore (Anahiem Ducks) scoring his first of the WJC after being sent in alone by Anthony Duclair (New York Rangers), but Slovakia got on the scoreboard with 3.4 seconds remaining when Soltes got his first of the tournament after taking a pass in tight.

Duclair scored his third goal of the WJC at 2:47 of the third period when he banked a shot in off the left leg of Godla from behind the Slovakia goal.

Petan completed his hat trick with a power-play goal at 11:59 when his high shot got past Godla.

"Right from the start, you could see he had jump to his game tonight," Canada center Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres) said. "He had the puck pretty much the whole time he was out there."

Slovakia appeared to make it 5-2 at 13:34, but it was ruled Matus Sukel kicked the puck past Fucale.

Canada beat Slovakia 8-0 in their tournament opener Dec. 26 in Montreal, but got a much better game from the opposition in the semifinal.

"The biggest thing tonight was not taking them lightly," Petan said. "They got better as the tournament progressed and I think some teams do take other teams lightly. We had a slow start but got better as the game progressed."

Slovakia's Martin Reway felt his team deserved a better outcome.

"We all knew it was going to be tight like this. It doesn't look like a 5-1 finish but if you saw the game you knew it was a tight game," Reway said. "We didn't help each other; one guy carried the puck and the other four guys just looked at him and waited for passes. It's not going to work against teams like Canada or Sweden."

It was Canada's 17th consecutive appearance in the semifinal. Slovakia's best showing at the WJC was a sixth-place finish in 2012.

Canada was without Robby Fabbri (St. Louis Blues), who injured his ankle against Denmark on Friday.

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