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.

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“Canada, I can’t hear you.” (Photo credit: Elena Rusko)

One year ago in the WJC gold medal game, Canada held what seemed to be an insurmountable 3-0 lead over Team Russia heading into the third period. During the second intermission, Head Coach Valery Bragin pleaded with his team to respond, and respond they did. Russia stormed back– riding three assists by Evgeny Kuznetsov to win the gold medal game 5-3 and shock the hockey world.

But antipathy between the Russian team and North American fans and media was high, and the situation degraded even further after the Russians were kicked off their flight home for being rowdy.  Kuznetsov says the incident was “absolute nonsense,” but the tension has only gotten worse since.

Entering the 2012 WJC, Russia intended to prove that last year’s win over Canada was no fluke. Despite being the defending champions, the team still held underdog status. Kuznetsov, Russia’s captain and the only returning player from 2011, netted his second WJC hat trick in three games, pushing Russia to a 6-5 win.

After the game, Allhockey.ru’s Andrey Osadchenko spoke to Kuznetsov and filmed his entire Q/A with reporters. Below the jump, I offer a translation.

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Before facing Canada in the semifinal round of the World Junior Championship, Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov was asked, “Do you want to spoil the holiday season for Canada?” Kuznetsov replied, “No, I rather want Russia to keep on drinking.”

Kuznetsov backed up those words with 4 points (assist and a hat trick) in a 6-5 win over tourney host Team Canada. Combining this game and last year’s Russia-Canada game, Kuznetsov has 3 goals, 4 assists, and 7 points. His overall tally in the WJC tourney with one game remaining is 6 goals, 7 assists, and 13 points. The 19-year-old leads the tournament in scoring despite only registering points in only two of Russia’s six WJC games.

Here are the video highlights from Kuznetsov’s big night in Calgary.

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Photo credit: Francois Laplante

Thanks to his nine-point game versus the LatviansEvgeny 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.

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Photo credit: Francois Laplante

Evgeny Kuznetsov has done a lot of spectacular things in his young career: he was the youngest player ever to be named to a KHL all-star game; he’s starred in a movie; he scored the game-winning goal to win Russian the Karjala Cup; and he got married at 19. Late Thursday night in Calgary, Kuzya had the game of his life notching an incredible three goals, six assists, and nine points in a 14-0 thrashing of Latvia. It was the second most points ever scored in a World Junior Championship game.

After the game, Allhockey.ru’s Andrey Osadchenko spoke to Kuznetsov and filmed his entire Q/A with reporters. Below the jump, I offer a translation.

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Kuznetsov and his teammates celebrate his hat-trick. (Photo credit: Mike Sturk)

19-year-old Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov had 0 points heading into Russia’s third World Junior Championship game. On Monday, he was shutdown in Russia’s 3-0 victory over Switzerland. On Wednesday, a frustrated Kuznetsov still could not land on the scoresheet despite rifling nine shots on goal against the Slovaks.

Enter Latvia. After not registering a point in the game’s first 27 minutes, Kuznetsov exploded, tallying an insane nine points over the next 33 minutes pushing Russia to a 14-0 victory.

You can check out video of his big night below the jump.

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Photo credit: Elena Rusko

After being eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Alex Ovechkin joined Team Russia with hopes of a different outcome at the 2011 World Championships in Slovakia. Once again, however, Ovi will began with summer vacation without a championship as Russia fell, 7-4, to the Czech Republic in the Bronze Medal Game. This ends an awful tournament for the Great Eight. After being held scoreless yet again — while registering four shots and being a minus-one — he ends the Worlds with zero points in six games.

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Photo credit: Reuters

Mikael Granlund’s eye-popping goal was all Finland needed to best Russia for the second time this week, but the Finns still plied on while Russia’s offense looked lifeless. The 3-0 loss for Russia ends their chance at gold — they will face the Czech Republic for bronze Sunday at 10:00 AM Eastern Time — while Finland will move onto the championship game against Sweden.

Alex Ovechkin was more of a factor Friday than any other game in the tournament, though unluckily for him, in a negative way. The Great Eight was called for two slashing penalties after poking Finnish goalie Petri Vehanen on multiple occasions, while failing to convert on great chances to score. He finished the game a minus-one while registering five shots on goal and 18:31 of ice time. In five games since joining the team, Ovi has neither scored a goal or tallied an assist. Ouch.

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With a thrilling third period comeback against Canada, Team Russia and Alex Ovechkin are off to the semi-finals of the World Championships in Slovakia. Down, 1-0, midway through the final frame, Alexei Kaigorodov converted on a shorthanded breakaway to knot the score. Then, just over three minutes later, the Devils’ 100 million dollar man Ilya Kovalchuk rifled home a one-timer from the slot to give the Russians the lead and send their arch-rival home empty handed. Russia will face Finland, with the winner going to the gold metal game, on Sunday.

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Finland Beats Russia, 3-2; Ovechkin Speaks

Photo credit: Matthew Manor

After being mostly a non-factor in Team Russia’s loss Sunday, Alex Ovechkin was back in action Monday afternoon against Finland as he looked to regain his form. Ovi was certainly more noticeable against the Finns, registering an impressive nine shots on goal in 18:29 of ice time while failing to convert on a breakaway. Despite his efforts, Russia was defeated for the second day in a row, this time narrowly, 3-2, in the shootout. With Canada beating Sweden, 3-2, later in the day, a sure to be intense match-up of arch-rivals is set for the quarter-finals on Thursday between Russian and the Great White North.

Below, friend of the blog Aleksey Imaev translates the Great Eight’s video interview on Saturday with Russian website Sportbox.ru (Igor was unavailable and is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury). The clip was only viewable in Russia until RMNB’s Fedor Fedin stepped in, so props to him.

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