BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Russia had one more comeback remaining at the World Junior Championship.
In perhaps the most unexpected outcome in the history of the junior tournament, Russia rallied from a three-goal deficit by scoring five times in the third period to beat Canada 5-3 for the gold medal on Wednesday night before an absolutely stunned crowd at HSBC Arena.
The Canadian players were every bit as stunned as the red-clad fans.
"Right now, this is a thousand times worse than last year," said Canadian defenseman Calvin de Haan, referring to his country's 6-5 overtime loss to the U.S. in the 2010 WJC final. "It's disappointing … I'm sorry, I'm at a loss for words right now. I don't know what to say. I don't know … things happen for a reason and I guess it wasn't meant to be."
Trailing 3-0 at the second intermission and outplayed through 40 minutes, the Russians stormed back to tie the game in the opening 7:29 of the third period on goals by Artemi Panarin, Maxim Kitsyn and captain Vladimir Tarasenko. The goals by Panarin and Kitsyn, in a span of 13 seconds in the opening 2:46, seemed to sever any lifeline that remained between the Canadian fans and their players.
Character shines through for Russia
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Without faith, miracles are not possible. Fortunately, the Russians had enough faith for three miracles, the last going down as one of the most stunning in the history of hockey.
Team Russia, facing the very real threat of relegation earlier in the tournament after opening the tournament with two straight losses, scored five unanswered goals in the third period of Monday night's gold-medal game to shock Canada, 5-3, at a packed -- and hostile -- HSBC Arena.
"Simply, we believe in ourselves," said Artemi Panarin, who scored the first goal of the comeback and then netted the game-winner by outworking the Canadian defense for a loose puck in the slot and flicking it past goalie Mark Vesentin with just 4:38 left in the game. "It's just about our character. We never surrender."
Russia's character had been tested throughout this tournament. Not only did they start with two losses, but they were on the brink of elimination in both the quarterfinal and semifinal.
"We went into third knowing what we had to do, we weren't overconfident or gassed," forward Zack Kassian said. "But they got that early one and then another seconds later. It sucked the wind out of the crowd and was a huge momentum shift. They took off and we couldn't find our game after that."
Both teams had chances before Panarin then connected for the go-ahead goal on a shovel shot from the slot at 15:22. Nikita Dvurechenski then sealed the deal on a goal with 1:16 remaining.
It was a complete reversal of the first 40 minutes, when the Canadians dictated the play while outshooting the Russians 29-17, and perhaps the most devastating collapse in Canadian hockey history.
The Canadian players certainly were aware of Russia's string of comebacks, but had no answers when the Russians finally found their game.
Against Finland in the quarterfinals, Yevgeni Kuznetsov and Kitsyn each had a goal and an assist in the final four minutes of regulation to send the game to overtime before Kuznetsov won it 6:44 into the extra session for a 4-3 victory. In the 4-3 triumph over Sweden in the semifinals, Sergei Kalinin tied the game with 1:27 remaining in the third and Russia won it a shootout.
"Simply, we believe in ourselves," Panarin said. "It's just about our character. We never surrender."
Russia's captain, Tarasenko, was actually helped off the ice with 4:29 remaining in the second when he reportedly took a knee to the ribs from Canada's Marcus Foligno just inside the Russian blue line. But he returned in the third, skating gingerly in warm-ups, but gutting it out in the end. Several players even told reporters after the game that Tarasenko ignored his coach' wishes to sit out the third. Instead, he demanded to play and, in the end, had a major impact on the outcome.
"Even though he was really hurt, he said 'I want to go on the ice,'" Kitsyn said. "The other guys had to be motivated by that."
The comeback win against Canada marked the first WJC gold for Russia since 2003, when it knocked off Canada in the finale. It also snapped Canada's string of three straight gold-medal victories over Russia in the gold medal game (2005-07). Russia lost to Switzerland in overtime in the quarterfinal round of the 2010 tournament on the way to a sixth-place finish, marking the first time in six years the country failed to medal.
It was Canadians' 10th consecutive trip to the gold medal game -- but the second year in a row that Canada had to settle for silver. Before that, the Canadians had won five years in a row.
"We played a full 40 (minutes), but not a full 60, and it's our fault," captain Ryan Ellis said. "We had the game in our hands and let it slip away. They got that one goal and got rolling. They got positive bounces and once you get one goal, you get positive bounces and I think you just got to give them credit."
"No words to really describe it right now … I can't believe it happened," Visentin said. "It was really tough watching them out there celebrate. We really dedicated ourselves to winning this tournament and to come out on the short end of the stick is a big blow to us, that's for sure."
After Ellis and Ashton gave Canada a two-goal lead in the first, Canada connected again in the second to grab a 3-0 lead at the second intermission.
Schenn, who was named tournament MVP, ripped home his WJC-leading eighth goal from the right circle off a nice pass from Marcus Foligno along the left-wing half boards 6:27 into the second period to extend Canada's lead to 3-0. Schenn's goal was his second point of the game and 18th point of the tournament, tying him with Dale McCourt for most points in one WJC with 20 minutes remaining. McCourt's mark has stood since 1977.
The goal forced Russian coach Valeri Bragin to pull goalie Dmitri Shikin and replace him with Igor Bobkov, who stopped all 20 shots in relief after Shikin allowed 3 goals on 18 shots.
Bobkov, who plays for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, hadn't played since allowing six goals to Canada in the opener of the tournament. But when he was needed, he was flawless.
"I will remember this my whole life," Bobkov said.