Paced by a pair of goals by Quinton Howden
, Canada blanked Finland 4-0 at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday to capture the bronze medal at the World Junior Championships.
Though it was a lesser medal than the silver Howden received last year, he said the bronze still holds significant meaning.
"It's special," Howden said. "We won this medal. We come away with a good feeling. We come here for gold, that's what we wanted, but this medal still means a lot to us."
Mark Visentin, in his first start since Dec. 29, stopped 27 shots for the shutout.
"Obviously it's still a disappointment we couldn't play for gold but we wouldn't be satisfied with fourth place," said Visentin, a member of the 2011 team along with Howden. "In 30 years when I look back and cherish all these memories I'll be proud to have a bronze medal with all these amazing men."
The game marked the first time Canada hasn't played for the gold medal since 2001 -- the Canadians lost 6-5 to Russia in their semifinal game -- but the bronze continues Canada's consecutive streak of medaling in 14 consecutive tournaments.
The Finns admitted that after a 3-2 overtime loss to Sweden in the semifinal Tuesday, they were drained -- both physically and emotionally.
"We got tired," forward Teemu Pulkkinen said. "We played a long game against Sweden with the overtime. We were so close, after that when we lost the game we were so disappointed. I was so tired."
The game started as one would expect between two teams that suffered heartbreaking losses with a gold medal berth on the line. But after getting over their passive pace, Canada broke through Finnish starter Sami Aittokallio on the power play near the midway mark of the first period.
With Ville Pokka off for tripping, Pearson redirected a perfect pass from Barrie Colts teammate Mark Scheifele behind Aittokallio at 9:08 to give Canada a 1-0 lead. It was his first goal of the tournament.
On the power play again with just over four minutes remaining in the period, Canada almost gave up a shorthanded goal. Mikael Granlund sprung brother Markus in alone on Visentin. Markus deked, but Visentin got a pad on his shot to keep Finland off the board in the opening 20 minutes.
Pearson returned the favor to Scheifele in the second. Just 25 seconds following Visentin's stop on Pulkkinen, Pearson found Scheifele in the slot with a pass from below the goal line. Scheifele pumped the puck over the blocker of Aittokallio at 5:35 to extend Canada's lead to 2-0.
Pulkkinen had a prime opportunity with 2:32 remaining in the period to cut the lead to one. After Visentin was penalized for throwing his stick during a crease scramble that saw the Finns nearly get on the board, Pulkkinen was awarded a penalty shot. He broke in, cocked his stick and then fired a shot that Visentin was able to close his pads on.
"I don't know what the ref saw there," Visentin said. "I dropped my stick as I was falling to the ground and it went behind the net. When he raised his arm I didn't know what he was doing. When he pointed to me I was shocked. To face one of their best scorers and making a big save is a lot of fun. That just fuels my fire there. I was real pumped up."
The save proved monumental when Howden connected late in the period. While Miikka Salomaki was sitting for two minutes after a confrontation with Nathan Beaulieu, Howden slid a Ryan Murray rebound between the legs of Aittokallio to make it 3-0 with 30.7 seconds remaining in the period.
In Canada's gold medal game a year ago against Russia, the Canadians took a 3-0 lead into the third period before yielding five consecutive goals in a 5-3 Russian victory. Visentin, the goaltender of record in that loss, ensured Canada wouldn't repeat its third-period collapse this time.
Just 2:01 into the third, Joonas Donskoi
chipped a puck on net that went over Visentin. The Canadian netminder didn't mind, making a spectacular behind-the-back glove save before the puck could cross the goal line to keep Finland off the board.
"It was pretty wicked," Visentin said. "I watched the puck go off my shoulder, off the crossbar and I just saw it out of the corner of my eye go into my glove when I was reaching for it. I was kind of worried I swept so far back I caught it and put it in my own net but once I saw the replay and the crowd started to go nuts I had a good feeling it wasn't going in."
Howden put the finishing touches on the game with his second of the game and third of the tournament with 2:25 remaining, completing a nice three-way passing play involving Freddie Hamilton and Mark Stone.
Though disappointed with bronze, Howden hoped Canada's entry in the 2012 World Juniors would be remembered for something more.
"That we were close and we never had any quit," Howden said. "Some people counted us out right from the beginning. Obviously people were counting us out in that Russia game. We never had any quit."
Author: Aaron Vickers | NHL.com Correspondent