Rangers prospects Marc Staal, Tom Pyatt and Marc-Andre Cliche helped Canada win its third consecutive gold medal at the World Junior Championships on Friday, as the Canadians beat Russia 4-2 in Leksand, Sweden.
For Staal and Pyatt, the victory ensured their second gold medals. Both were members of last year's championship team. Cliche, meanwhile, also captured a gold in his first trip to the World Juniors.
The Rangers had more draft picks on the gold-medalist Canadian squad than any other NHL team. With 2006 second-round pick Artem Anisimov also competing for the Russians, the Blueshirts had more prospects in the championship game than any other NHL team.
Canada finished the tournament unbeaten at 6-0. Russian finished 5-1 for the silver medal, and Team USA took the bronze, beating Sweden in Friday's other game.
It was a big night for Staal, the defenseman who initiated the play that led to Canada's first goal. Controlling the puck along the left boards, Staal brought it into the Russian zone, where it was also handled by Pyatt before coming out to Andrew Cogliano, who scored at 15:35 of the first period.
Pyatt was on the ice again when Canada extended its lead to 2-0 on a power play with only 2:31 remaining in the first. Bryan Little got the goal while Anisimov was serving a holding penalty called only 42 seconds earlier.
Near the end of the first period, Canada took a 3-0 lead when Chicago Blackhawks draftee Jonathan Toews notched the eventual game-winner on another Canadian power play.
Toews later assisted on Team Canada's final goal, scored by Boston draftee Brad Marchand at the 6:00 mark of the second period. Marchand's goal gave Canada a commanding 4-0 lead. Russia attempted a comeback with two late second-period goals, but Canadian goaltender Carey Price slammed the door in the final period, making 10 of his 25 total saves for the victory.
Staal, who was called two minor penalties in the game, finished with a plus-1 rating. Pyatt, playing on Canada's second line, was also plus-1 with two shots on goal and an assist. Cliche had two shots on goal from his forward spot on the third line. Anisimov also had a strong game for Russia, firing two shots on goal and seeing time on his team's penalty-killing unit.
For nearly 30 years, the World Junior Championships have been the No. 1 international predictor of future NHL stardom for players under 20. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Peter Forsberg are just a few of the countless superstars who made their mark in past World Juniors.
In Friday's bronze-medal game, Team USA defeated host nation Sweden 2-1 for the bronze medal. Defenseman Erik Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick of the St. Louis Blues last June, scored the game-winning goal midway through the second period. Johnson went on to win the Directorate Award as the tournament's best defenseman, the same award won by Staal a year ago.