RIGA, Latvia – Nick Paul (Mississauga, Ont./Ottawa, NHL) tapped in a cross-crease feed from Connor Brown (Toronto, Ont./Ottawa, NHL) at the 6:26 mark of overtime, giving Canada’s National Men’s Team a 3-2 win over Finland on Sunday and the gold medal at the 2021 IIHF World Championship.
It is the 27th time Canada has stood atop the podium at worlds, including six Olympic gold medals between 1920 and 1952 that are also counted as world titles.
None of the first 26 were quite as unlikely as this one. Two weeks ago, after a 3-1 loss to Germany dropped them to 0-3, no one gave the Canadians a chance to make the quarterfinals, let alone win the whole thing.
But the stars aligned as they had to to allow Canada to sneak into the playoff round, and it knocked out the group winners in ROC and the United States in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, before ending the Finns’ hopes of repeating as world champions.
“We came together as a group,” Paul said of how the team turned the page. “People counted us out, [but] we knew we were going to come together, work hard and take it in the end and we did. We made it closer than we wanted, but it was an unbelievable, hard-fought game and I’m super proud right now.”
In the extra period, Paul got the play started when he intercepted a pass back to the blueline off a lost face-off, sending him and Brown away on a two-on-one. Brown collected Paul’s pass off his skate and sent it back across the face of the net, where Paul simply had to direct it into the empty goal to join Anson Carter (2003) as the only Canadians to score gold medal-winning overtime goals at the tournament.
Brown set up all three goals in the win; he finished as the tournament scoring leader with 16 points, and his 14 assists are the most by a Canadian at a single world championship, and tied for the second-most ever.
As expected coming in, offence was at a premium. The teams both managed just eight shots on goal in the first period, and only one made its way to the back of the net – just seconds after a Finnish power play had expired, Mikael Ruohomaa knocked down a shot from Oliwer Kaski and swatted it past Canadian goaltender Darcy Kuemper (Saskatoon, Sask./Arizona, NHL).
Canada got even on a man advantage early in the second period as Maxime Comtois (Longueuil, Que./Anaheim, NHL) played follow-the-bouncing-puck; after a long-range wrist shot from Brown rang off the post, the chest of Comtois, the leg of Miika Koivisto, the skate of Comtois and the post again, he knocked it past Jussi Olkinuora to make it 1-1.
Adam Henrique (Burford, Ont./Anaheim, NHL) thought he had given Canada its first lead late in the middle frame when he buried a Brown rebound off the rush, but Owen Power (Mississauga, Ont./University of Michigan, Big Ten) was judged to be inches offside and the game went to the intermission even.
Instead it was the Finns who went again early in the third period; with the Canadians scrambling a little in their own zone, Petteri Lindbohm stepped in and wired a wrist shot through a screen and past the glove of Kuemper for the 2-1 goal.
But Henrique made good on another Canadian power play seven minutes later, converting his own rebound after a slick no-look, between-the-legs feed from Comtois in close to tie the game and force overtime.
Both goaltenders made huge stops early in the three-on-three extra period, including a Olkinuora save off a stick-to-skate-to-stick move from Andrew Mangiapane (Bolton, Ont./Calgary, NHL) just seconds in.
Following the game, Mangiapane was named tournament MVP. He scored seven goals in the seven games he played, including four game-winners – two of which came in quarterfinal and semifinal victories. He also earned a spot on the media all-star team.