QUEBEC CITY (Reuters) - Russia rallied to their first world championship gold medal since 1993 when Ilya Kovalchuk’s overtime powerplay goal gave them a 5-4 win over defending champions Canada on Sunday.
Kovalchuk broke free when it mattered to send the contest into overtime with his first goal of the tournament late in the third period and then notched the winner 2:42 into overtime.
The goal stunned the capacity crowd at the Quebec Colisee, watching in disbelief as the Russian team poured off the bench to mob Kovalchuk.
“During the whole tournament, it doesn’t matter who scores it’s all a team effort,” Kovalchuk told reporters. “Everyone was asking when I would score.”
The victory capped an unbeaten run through the tournament for Russia and the title was made all the sweeter as it came against their fiercest rivals, who were hosting the championships for the first time.
It was also sweet revenge from a year ago when the Canadian national anthem was played in Moscow following their gold medal win over Finland.
The loss was the first by Canada in 18 world championship games, denying them their bid to become the first hosts to capture the title since the Soviet Union in 1986.
Canada and Russia rolled into the title game with unbeaten records, the two hockey giants providing a classic matchup for the IIHF’s 100th anniversary celebrations.
Strangely, given their long and storied history, it was the first time since the knockout formula was introduced into the world championship in 1992 that the two hockey superpowers had met in a winner-take-all gold medal game.
Not since the 1992 Albertville Olympics had Canada and Russia faced off in a title game.
“Right now we are champions of the world and it feels great,” said Russia’s leading scorer Alexander Ovechkin.
“And it is especially great to win here because this is a hockey mad-country.”
That history added to the electric atmosphere inside the Quebec Colisee.
The opening period was played at a furious pace, the Russians scoring on their first shot of the game, Alexander Semin rifling a feed from Washington Capitals team mate Ovechkin by Cam Ward.
But Canada settled frayed nerves hitting back for three goals, including a pair from Brent Burns and another from Chris Kunitz to take a 3-1 lead into the second.
Burns’ first goal, a rocket from just inside the blueline, was the first surrendered by Russian netminder Evgeni Nabokov in 134 minutes of play after posting back-to-back shutouts in the quarter-finals and semi-finals.
In the second period, Russia again struck for another early goal, Semin converting a powerplay for his second of the game.
The hosts quickly cancelled that out, tournament MVP Dany Heatley providing relief with his 12th of the tournament, setting the Canadian modern day record for the most goals at a single world championship to restore a 4-2 cushion heading into the final period.
Alexei Tereshchenko sparked the Russian rally with his tally midway through final period before Kovalchuk, who did not play in the semi-finals because of a one-game suspension, struck the equalizer.
“We’re disappointed in losing but you get a game into overtime and it’s flip a coin,” said Canadian coach Ken Hitchcock.
Editing by Miles Evans