COLOGNE, Germany — There wasn’t much surprise viewing the end result as Canada fell 5-2 Thursday to an overpowering Russian team in quarter-final play at the world hockey championship.
The victory by the high-flying Russians, desperate to avenge their humiliating 7-3 loss to Canada at the Vancouver Olympics, knocked Canada out of the tournament.
Russia heads to the semifinals Saturday to play the surprising Germans, who thrilled this nation with its best modern-era tournament performance ever in edging Switzerland 1-0.
Sweden, which beat Denmark 4-2, will take on a Czech team that won a 2-1 shootout thriller over Finland.
“It’s a bitter taste,” said centre Steve Stamkos of Canada’s seventh-place finish.
Russia had five goals from four of the 14 players who were on that Olympic team — Evgeni Malkin, who scored two, Sergei Fedorov, Maxim Afinogenov and Pavel Datsyuk.
Canada, playing with only a single Olympian in Corey Perry, had third-period goals from John Tavares — his tournament-leading seventh marker — and Matt Duchene.
While frustrated with the loss, neither Stamkos or even Russian coach Vyacheslav Bykov would buy into media suggestions that Russia has avenged Russia’s epic Olympic flop.
“Canada won the Olympics and they beat Russia pretty badly. I mean, that’s when you have the best of the best,” Stamkos said. “As of right now Canada is still the best team in the world.”
Bykov noted that it’s a different tournament with different players.
Stamkos, held pointless in his last two games of the tournament after missing two games with an injury, was among several players shaking their heads in frustration throughout the game over missed scoring opportunities.
Coach Craig MacTavish, who as recently as Sunday said his team wasn’t playing with sufficient desperation, praised his team for playing a tough, passionate “Canadian brand of hockey.”
“We just weren’t able to find the back of the net enough times,” he said. “And it was a situation that really plagued us throughout the tournament.”
General manager Mark Messier, who with Hockey Canada officials recruited the 25 players that included six age 20 or younger, said he had no regrets about his selections.
But he said Team Canada could have done a better job convincing the recruits that European teams are powerful and competitive even if they have few NHL players.
Canada bagged easy wins against Italy, Latvia and Norway but lost all four games it played against top teams, with additional losses to Sweden, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
Canada only started playing with the kind of hustle and grit the country is known for against the Czechs Tuesday, but still fell short due to ongoing problems burying scoring opportunities.
“Normally Canada has a pretty decided advantage in terms of competitiveness, but in this tournament this year all the teams we played were highly competitive. They battled hard,” MacTavish said.
With four losses it was the weakest Team Canada performance since 1992, when Canada finished seventh.
Canada needed St. Louis Blues goaltender Chris Mason, ranked 17th in the tournament in save percentage going into the game, to outduel Russian goalie Semyon Varlamov of the Washington Capitals.
But Varlamov, who entered the game with the top save percentage, kept Canada off the scoreboard until Tavares’s goal with eight minutes to play, making it 4-1.
Mason, meanwhile, allowed some untimely goals as he did against the Swiss and Swedes.
Canada had a strong start to the game, getting two early scoring chances even-strength, easily killing two minor penalties defending against Russia’s juggernaut offence, and putting constant pressure on Russia in its only full two-minute power play opportunity.
But Russia went into the dressing room with the momentum after Atlanta Thrashers sniper Afinogenov put the large contingent of Russians among more than 12,274 in attendance in a frenzy with the opening goal.
Russia made it 2-0 during a brief five-on-three power play in the second period when Datsyuk, unmolested at the side of the net, lifted a wrist shot over Mason’s shoulder.
Russia’s power play struck again as Malkin blasted a wrist shot between Mason’s pads at 17:31 of the second.
Russia made it 4-0 midway through the third when Fedorov tipped a point shot past Mason before Tavares finally got Canada on the board.
Malkin added an empty-netter after MacTavish pulled Mason with three minutes left to make it 5-1. Duchene made the score a more respectable 5-2 with 14 seconds left in the game.
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