Monday, May 19, 2008

2008 IIHF World Championships Finals: Kovalchuk leads Russia to its first Gold medal in 15 years

What a finish! In one of most memorable games in the World Championships’ 100-year history, Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a power play 2:42 into overtime as Russia defeated host Canada 5-4 to capture its first IIHF World Championship title since 1993 before a ruckus crowd of 13,338 at the Pepsi Colisee in Quebec. With Canadian winger Rick Nash in the penalty box for delay of game for shooting the puck out of play over Russia’s bench, an unmarked “Kovy” waltzed in from the blue line to the top of the slot and ripped a wrist shot over the blocker of 2006 Vezina Trophy winner Cam Ward for the dramatic victory. (watch it here: The play developed on a nifty feed from the re-born Sergei Fedorov, who pulled up on the right wing just inside Canada’s blue line, circled, and found a shockingly wide open Kovalchuk entering the zone. Fedorov and Alexander Ovechkin drew the assists on Kovy’s “golden goal”.

Kovalchuk, who sat out Russia’s semifinal matchup against Sweden due to an automatic one-game suspension, also provided the heroics for Russia in regulation, as he tied the game 4-4 on a wrist shot with 5:14 remaining in the third period. The clutch goals were Kovalchuk’s first two of the tournament to go along with six assists.

Russia displayed great resolve in winning its first gold in fifteen years. After Alexander Semin staked the visitors to a 1-0 lead just 1:24 into the first period with his first of two goals on the night, Canada pulled ahead 3-1 after twenty minutes on two goals by Minnesota Wild defenseman Brent Burns, sandwiched around a Chris Kunitz tally. Burns’ second came on a 5 on 3 advantage, as he powered a one-timer past Evgeni Nabokov to give Canada a two-goal cushion entering the intermission. Russia, appearing a bit unsettled in its first championship game since 2002, took four penalties in the opening frame, including a Vatali Proshkin double-minor for high sticking, and as a result were out shot 15-5.

After regrouping during the first intermission and beginning the second period on its first power play, Semin put the visitors within one with his sixth goal of the tournament. The Washington Capitals rising star, the 13th overall pick in the 2002 Entry Draft, would end up leading all Russians in scoring with 13 points. Canada regained its two goal lead on Dany Heatley’s Championships leading twelfth goal. Heatley was named the MVP and top forward of the tournament after the game. The score remained 4-2 through 40 minutes of play, despite Russia out shooting Canada 12-8 in the second.

In the third period and overtime, Russia continued to dominate play. After shifts of sustained pressure in the Canadian zone, Alexander Tereshchenko finally broke through for the visitors, beating Ward five-hole from the slot to cut the home team’s lead in half. Then it was Kovalchuk’s time, and gold was Russia’s at last.

You can watch the Russian team's celebration as well as an interview with Ilya Kovalchuk's mother here -

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