Хроника Хоккея


Heartbreaker in Helsinki
06.01.2004. MacKinnon, John. The Gazette

 Canada loses 4-3. Freak goal in third period sends world junior glory to United States

Canada's ringer didn't deliver.

That judgment might seem harsh, but that's what this came down to yesterday. And yet, it's probably not goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's fault.

On loan to Canada's juniors from the National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins, Sorel native Fleury was supposed to be the difference-maker, the stopper who would end Canada's six-year losing streak at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

All things being equal - and until the gold-medal game no team came close to being Canada's equal - it would come down to goaltending, as it so often has in the past.

That was the script and it was all set up to play out that way. On a pair of goals by Nigel Dawes and another by linemate Anthony Stewart, Canada had a 3-1 lead with 15 minutes to go and they had Fleury. No problem, no sweat, no worries. Their 11th gold medal was as good as around their necks, the futility streak over, national pride restored.

But the closer couldn't close.

In a scene eerily reminiscent of Canada's third-period of the final game of the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, the puck took a couple of wild bounces, the impregnable goalie was shown to be vulnerable, Canada sagged, the Americans surged, and Canada's juniors are stuck with silver. Again, for the third straight year.

On the second of three third-period goals by the U.S., Fleury was on his knees to block a short-range shot by Ryan Kesler. He did, sort of. But the puck slammed off Fleury's stick, popped up in the air over his head and in at 6:58.

At 14:48, Patrick O'Sullivan broke in, but lost the puck as he jostled with defenceman Braydon Coburn as both sped toward the Canadian goal.

Fleury moved out a stride or two and fired an attempted clearing shot that caromed off Coburn's chest, landed in the crease and dribbled slowly over the goal-line.

Fleury belly-flopped into his own net desperately trying to grab the puck. He was too late.

And, stunningly, too little. Fleury, the hero of the 2003 silver- medal Canadian team, the top pick in the 2003 NHL entry draft, was clearly the goat of the 2004 second-place team. To his credit, Fleury not only knew it, he as much as said it.

"I scored in my own net tonight, that doesn't help," an emotional Fleury told reporters. "I don't know. I think that was some lucky (bounces).

"The first one hit my shoulder, and went in the net. The second one hit my stick, bounced over my head, and went in the net. The third one, I chipped off my D and it went in again.

"You don't see those often, but you know, if you're going to win, you've to make some stops, too."

Fleury did make some stops, big ones, at least three of them off O'Sullivan, invisible for most of the tournament, but Team USA's best player when it counted. Fleury got his glove on an O'Sullivan slap shot early in the first period, stopped him again early in the second and slammed the door on two lip-of-the whacks by Brett Sterling midway through the second.

But Fleury also got lucky. O'Sullivan missed a wide-open chance with Fleury not only flat on the ice, but looking the other way at 12:44 of the second.

In truth, Fleury never displayed the brilliant form he had at last year's championship in Halifax. He didn't have to, for one thing. He faced so few shots he was bored in Canada's first two victories, 3-0 over Finland and 7-2 over Switzerland. Head coach Mario Durocher sat him down for Canada's 10-0 whacking of Ukraine, more for a change than a rest.

Compared to his first half-season in the NHL, the whole tournament was a bit of a holiday for Fleury, who was facing 35 to 40 shots every game in the 17 NHL games he had played. The Canadian team tried to provide enough quality shots for Fleury in their high- intensity workouts, but nothing replicates game conditions.

And in this tournament, in the end, Fleury was asked to be ready for one game, one crucial test over a month's time, counting the selection camp. Strangely, that challenge might have been harder for Fleury than facing, say, the Detroit Red Wings or the Philadelphia Flyers. It's not hard to maintain focus with Brett Hull about to unleash a one-timer. It may well be ill-advised for anyone who has graduated cum laude, in effect, to revisit the alma mater and take another final exam, for the sake of school pride. Not to mention save the cash-strapped Penguins some bonus payments in the bargain.

His Team Canada mates and his head coach supported Fleury, who leaned dispirited on the boards by the Canadian bench during the post-game presentations. Backup goalie Josh Harding patted him on the back, offered some words, so did Durocher for all the good it could possibly do.

"Well, there's not too much to say, eh?" Durocher said. "You just say, 'Heads up.'

"It's tough and I think he really played well in the first and second period and in the third period it was two lucky goals that made the difference in that game. That's part of hockey."

It's not supposed to be part of Canadian hockey, not at this level, not in the gold-medal game. But the days of Canada having an automatic edge in goal are gone, even if the goalie in question has genuine NHL portfolio.

Not only was U.S. goalie Al Montoya superior in the final, he was named the top goalie in the tournament, not Fleury.

Montoya, seemingly, has a promising NHL career ahead of him. Once he gets there, he might want to insist that his club cannot send him back for another whack at world junior glory. It could well be a no- win situation.

Первая страничка молодежных чемпионатов мира 2004 года
Подгруппа А - подробнее
Россия, Словакия, США, Швеция. Австрия
Подгруппа В - подробнее
Канада, Финляндия, Чехия, Швейцария, Украина
За 7-10 места - подробнее
Швейцария, Швеция, Австрия, Украина
1/4 финала - подробнее
Финляндия - Россия
Словакия - Чехия
1/2 финала - подробнее
Канада - Чехия
США - Финляндия
Финал - подробнее
За 5 место. Россия - Словакия
За 3 место. Финляндия - Чехия
За 1 место. Канада - США
Страничка статистики

Молодежные чемпионаты мира (до 20 лет) 2004 года.