Photo credit: Francois Laplante
Thanks to his nine-point game versus the Latvians, Evgeny Kuznetsov was already the talk of the World Junior Championship before the semifinal game on Tuesday night, but his star-making performance in Russia’s 6-5 victory over Canada has made him the premiere young hockey talent in the world.
The Canadians recovered from a second period meltdown — which ended with them down 6-1– to mount a dramatic comeback in the third with 4 unanswered goals in 5 minutes. The game ended before Canada could close the gap.
Goals from Alexander Khokhlachev, Nikita Nesterov and Nikita Kucherov aided the Russians, but it was Kuznetsov’s three goals that shattered Canada’s confidence. Drafted 26th by the Capitals in 2010, Kuznetsov scored all three of his goals at even strength and assisted on Khokhlachev’s goal.
Kuznetsov recorded his second hat trick of the tournament.
This is Kuznetsov’s second year in the WJC tournament, which Team Russia won last year. The Russians will now face Sweden in the gold-medal game.
Active officials stifled the game’s pace, doling out 81 penalty minutes in a spirited game between rivals. Kuznetsov endured a spear from Boone Jenner and an uncalled slash during a breakaway.
Evgeny Kuznetsov’s profile in the Canadian hockey media is higher than ever, and the scrutiny he receives will only intensify as he competes in the final round of the WJC and prepares to join the Washington Capitals, expected for the start of the 2012-2013 season.
Additional reporting by Fedor Fedin.