Rangers prospect Evgeny Grachev came as close as anyone can come to reaching the World Junior Championship gold-medal game, but his team will instead play for bronze after falling to four-time defending champion Canada 6-5 in a stunning semifinal game on Saturday night in Ottawa.
The game was decided by a shootout after the score remained tied at 5-5 through 60 minutes of regulation and a 10-minute overtime period. Edmonton Oilers first-round draft pick Jordan Eberle got the deciding goal in the shootout for Canada.
|Team Canada's Jordan Eberle celebrates his tying goal with five seconds left in regulation. The goal forced an overtime, where Canada prevailed in a shootout. |
Stirring memories of the Canada-Russia Super Series of 1972, it was truly a night of Paul Henderson magnitude for Eberle. He not only won the shootout, but also forced the overtime when he scored with only five seconds left in regulation and Canadian goaltender Dustin Tokarski out of the net for an extra attacker.
Eberle's accomplishments overshadowed a big game for Grachev, a 6-foot-3 center selected by the Rangers in the third round of last year's NHL Entry Draft. Grachev, who led all Russian players with five shots on net, scored what might have been the most important goal of his hockey career to date in the third period on Saturday. His even-strength tally just 51 seconds into the third period swung the momentum back to the Russians by tying the score at 3-3.
Canada came back to take a brief 4-3 lead on a shorthanded goal by Angelo Esposito, but it was all Russia after that until the last few seconds of the period. Just 38 seconds after Esposito's goal, Grachev's linemate Nikita Filatov tied the game at 4-4 on a power play at 6:22.
Dmitri Klopov then delivered the potential game-winner at 17:40 of the third, before Eberle scrambled to save the Canadian World Junior dynasty for at least another 48 hours until Monday's gold-medal game vs. Sweden.
Canada's run of dominance has included contributions from Rangers defenseman Marc Staal
and prospect Tom Pyatt, who both played on the 2006 and 2007 gold-medal winners.
Russia, whose head coach is former Rangers forward Sergei Nemchinov, will face Slovakia for the bronze on Monday, giving Grachev a chance to claim his first World Junior medal in his first tournament appearance.
Through six games, Grachev now has two goals and two assists for four points. Three of those points have come in the medal round, including a goal and an assist against the Czechs on Friday.
One other Rangers prospect, defenseman Tomas Kundratek, competed in the tournament for the Czech Republic. The Czechs fell to Team USA 3-2 in overtime of Sunday night's fifth-place game. Kundratek ended the tournament with six assists and 10 penalty minutes in six games.