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O'Reilly's late goal sends Canada to gold medal game

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Ryan O'Reilly had already left his mark on the game by the time Nathan MacKinnon scored to tie Canada's semifinal matchup with Russia late in the third period on Saturday. The Sabres forward led all skaters with six shots, contributing yet another standout two-way performance. 

Who knew at that point that the best was yet to come? O'Reilly's seventh shot was the real difference maker, a put-back shot that gave Canada the lead 3:02 remaining in regulation.

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: �� RYAN O'REILLY! ��He scores the leading goal with just 3:02 left in the 3rd -- Canada ���� erases a 2-0 deficit! #IIHFWorlds

After that, O'Reilly put a bow on the performance with a stretch pass to set up Sean Couturier for an empty-net goal. The Canadians won the game 4-2, their hopes for a third straight gold medal at the IIHF World Championship still intact. 

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: Tape-to-tape! What a cross-ice pass by #ROR after he forces a turnover to seal it for Canada ���� 4-2 over Russia! #IIHFWorlds

O'Reilly, who finished with a goal and an assist on eight shots, was named Player of the Game for Canada. He skated 21:21, far and away Canada's leader among forwards, a feat made more impressive when you consider he's playing on a team with names such as Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Nathan MacKinnon and Mark Scheifele. 

Only one defenseman - Colton Parayko, at 22:57 - skated more than O'Reilly. 

The effort would have been for naught had it not been for a third-period comeback that saw the Canadians erase a two-goal deficit. They came out of the second intermission with 30 seconds remaining on a man advantage, and it only took 17 for Scheifele to finally beat Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and cut the deficit in half. 

The Canadians earned three more power plays in a third period that saw them outshoot the Russians 19-5, but it wasn't until MacKinnon's even-strength goal with 4:53 remaining that they finally evened the score, setting the stage for O'Reilly's grand finale. 

O'Reilly has scored five goals and three assists in nine games, matching the eight points he scored en route to a gold medal with Canada a year ago. Those numbers, combined with his two-way presence, earned him recognition as one of Canada's top three players at the tournament along with Scheifele and Mitch Marner. 

Canada will play the winner of Saturday's semifinal between Sweden and Finland in the gold medal game at 2:45 p.m. on Sunday. A win in that game will give O'Reilly his third gold medal at the event. 

For O'Reilly, you can bet that's the only number that matters.

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