Kuznetsov poses with the second-place silver platter. (Photo credit: Francois Laplante)
After defeating Canada 6-5 Tuesday, Team Russia returned to Calgary’s Saddledome on Thursday night to take on Sweden in the WJC’s gold medal game. Russia struggled from the get-go and only found their game in spurts during the third period.
The shot statistics tell the tale. Russia went without a shot on goal for the first 12:34 of the game, and at the end of the first period Sweden had outshot them 17 to 3.
The second period was even worse, as Russia managed to throw only one puck on net. By the end of the third period, Sweden held a 50 to 16 shot advantage. The game, however, remained scoreless.
In overtime, after outshooting Russia 8-1, Mika Zibanejad scored the golden goal on a breakaway, giving Sweden its first U-20 championship in 31 years. Caps prospect and captain of the Russian WJC team, Evgeny Kuznetsov, returned to the bench, crouched over, and weeped.
Despite the loss, Kuznetsov was named most valuable player of the tournament and was added to the WJC All-Star team for the second year in a row. His 13 points in Calgary and Edmonton led all scorers.
Due to age restrictions, this will be Evgeny’s last year playing on the junior circuit. During his three years playing on Russia’s WJC team, Kuznetsov was historically great:*
- During his three years on Team Russia, Kuznetsov scored or assisted on 29% (16 of 56) of his team’s goals during the preliminary stage and 42% (10 of 24) of the team’s goals in the playoffs.
- He has the second most career points among all skaters who have played in the WJC since 2000. Only Jordan Schroeder had more. Kuznetsov’s 26 career points (12 goals, 24 assists) leaves him tied with Jordan Eberle, Nikita Filatov, Brayden Schenn, and Henrik Sedin.
- Kuzetsov’s 26 career points ties him for the most points ever in U-20 Team Russia history with Filatov.
- Kuznetsov’s 26 career points ties him for most points scored ever by a player drafted by the Capitals (Michal Pivonka).
- His 13 points in this year’s tournament was the most a Russian has ever scored. His 11 points in 2011 tied him for second all-time with Filatov, Alex Ovechkin, and Vladimir Tarasenko in U-20 Team Russia history.
Kuznetsov will now return home to Chelyabinsk and play out the rest of the KHL season where his hometown team Traktor is in first place in the Eastern Conference. Kuznetsov is eligible to sign with the Capitals during the summer and play for them next season.
*Note: Russian stats do not include USSR.
Photos and Video
The Swedes’ call of the golden goal. (Via Puck Daddy)
Kuznetsov’s near goal in the third period. Off the post!
Sick pass from Kuznetsov to Gusev which almost results in a goal.
Evgeny Kuznetsov’s first period roughing penalty.
Sweden’s Mika Zibanejad scores on Russia goaltender Andrei Makarov in OT. (Photo credit: Nathan Denette)
Zibanejad celebrates his goal. (Photo credit: Andy Devlin)
Kuznetsov goes through the handshake line. (Photo credit: Richard Wolowicz)
Team Russia’s three MVP’s of the game. Kuzya (far right) not happy. (Photo credit: Francois Laplante)
Captain Johan Larsson celebrates Team Sweden’s gold medal win with the championship trophy. (Photo credit: Canadian Press)
Sweden players pose for a team photo. (Photo credit: Richard Wolowicz)
And finally… Ovi.
Additional reporting by Fedor Fedin.