VANCOUVER, British Columbia --
FINAL SCORE - Canada 7, Russia 3:
Everybody on their feet for the last 30 seconds. Canada wins it, 7-3. As the team salutes the crowd with the stick raise, this place erupts. To wrap it up here, this was the kind of game Canada needed. Lots of scoring, solid if not spectacular goaltending, and a huge win, taking out the other titans in the tournament and doing it with seeming ease. Canada ended up outshooting the Russians, 42-28, and this time, it was definitely good enough. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf were big, nasty and dominated. Toews, Richards and Nash kept the Russians big-name scorers at bay, and Russia, even with all its swagger, books the early ticket home. Next up for Canada will be the winner of Sweden-Slovakia, which will kick off here in a few hours, but the Canadian fans were clear: They want Sweden, the reigning Olympic gold medalists.
Now that the biggest, most anticipated game is done, Canada is about to kick off one heck of a party. Check SI.com soon for commentary from Michael Farber and S.L. Price.
2:04, THIRD PERIOD - Canada 7, Russia 3: Alexander Semin made a run at Dan Boyle against the boards and Boyle came back at him. At first, Semin was called on a high-sticking after the fact, but then everyone realized Boyle sort of started it. Still, refs give them coincidental minors, and so that's good news for Canada. The last minute and a half here are going to be deafening. Crowd are saying goodbye to Russia already.
3:43, THIRD PERIOD - Canada 7, Russia 3: Russia on the power play, Malkin has a point blank look at Luongo with the Canadians on a change. Huge, confidence-boosting save for Luongo. The "We Want Sweden!" chants are starting in one side of the rink. Hey, they called for Russia last night and that turned out pretty well for them. Why not call this game? Three minutes left, and Russia still down by four.
8:47, THIRD PERIOD - Canada 7, Russia 3: The crowd is taunting Ovechkin with chants of "Ovie! Ovie! Ovie!" With just about 10 minutes left in the game, Ovechkin is still searching for something. He has just three shots in the game. He's been quite effectively neutralized, I'd say. About as good as Crosby's been neutralized for Team Canada. The ice dancing team, gold medal winners, are introduced on the Jumbotron. "This is the biggest perk so far," they say. The crowd gets on their feet and goes wild. The number of Russian flags being brandished are far fewer than it was at the beginning of the game, but there are still quite a few. No hope is lost on some, it seems. Ovechkin is in some pain, icing his hand on the bench, it seems. Russia is starting to pour it on, but Luongo is making some key saves. No necessarily pretty, but getting the job done.
14:34, THIRD PERIOD - Canada 7, Russia 3: Eric Staal is down on the ice, after going hard into the boards. Russia's Anton Valchenkov gave him a little shove near the boards and Staal just slammed in there. He gets up and goes to the bench, talking to the trainer. He looks really dazed, but he's got a stick in his hand and looks like he'll be fine. Gonchar goes to the box for hooking, at 2:01 in the third. Canada has a huge chance; Crosby dishes into the crease for Iginla, whose shot hits the post. Canada doesn't want to let up here. Coming back from a four-goal deficit is unlikely, but if there is a team that can do it in this tournament, it would be Russia. That said, Russia needs to stay out of the box if they have any chance. Called for too many men; Ovechkin serving. Everybody seated near the box takes pictures. And i mean EVERYONE.
END OF SECOND PERIOD - Canada 7, Russia 3: Sergei Fedorov is now playing with Ovechkin and Semin, and they're out there against the Sharks line. Say, did you know there are 10 goals on the board right now, and neither Ovechkin nor Crosby has a point? Ha. Shows what us reporters know about hyping things up. Actually, what it says is the depth on both teams is pretty remarkable, especially on Canada. When you can consider Getzlaf and Perry "fourth liners," you know your roster is pretty impressive. Team Canada will start the third with 1:15 left on a Duncan Keith penalty.
7:05, SECOND PERIOD - Canada 7, Russia 3: Getzlaf to Eric Staal, who no-looks it to Corey Perry for his second of the night. Getzlaf and Perry are playing out of their minds. Canada is now so, so, so happy the big center didn't sit out this tournament with that injury. Canada called on a too many men violation; Jumbo Joe Thronton serving, and it cost them. Sergei Gonchar slams a low shot through four different people. It's 7-3, and it's just a little over the halfway mark. Shots at this point are 28-17, Canada. The Russians are certainly getting some good looks at Luongo, but he's played fairly well up to this point.
14:28, SECOND PERIOD - Canada 6, Russia 2: Nabokov comes out to challenge Getzlaf on the shot, but he semi-whiffed and a fortuitous bounce off a Russian defenseman put the puck right on Corey Perry's stick. Nabby was way out and had no chance to save that one. 5-1, Canada. And the pressure just doesn't stop. Less than a minute later, Shea Weber fires one that Nabokov just doesn't stop, and he gets pulled. Ilya Brzygalov relieves him in net. So, then Russia responds, when Maxim Afinogenov does a little forehand-backhand that gets by Luongo. That's three goals in the span of 1:36. This really is an All-Star Game with checking, eh?
END OF FIRST PERIOD - Canada 4, Russia 1: Brenden Morrow made it 4-1 late in the first, coming in from behind the net, a backhand shot right in Nabokov's kitchen. The initial save goes up and over the goalie. This Canadian crowd is loving life right now. Shots after the first period are 21-12, Canada. With 21 shots in one period, Canada is starting to show what exactly they're made of. Heading into the second frame, the big question is how Russia will respond. The Canadians are putting forth a relentless forecheck and are getting to pucks first, battling just a little harder. Looks like Russia may have been caught by surprise at just how hungry Team Canada came out of the gate. This Rick Nash-Mike Richards-Jonathan Toews line has been great. Not only are they making Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin nonfactors thus far, they created that nice 2-on-1 goal. Ovechkin, Malkin and Semin each have one shot on Luongo. Meanwhile, Jarome Iginla and Sidney Crosby each have three shots. Canada is adhering to the shorter shifts mantra. None of their players are averaging more than :43 seconds on the ice at a time.
3:05, FIRST PERIOD - Canada 3, Russia 1: Dmitri Kalinin scores Russia's first goal with 5:21 remaining in the first, a point shot with a screen in front that hit the crossbar and went in. These Russians have really, really hard wrist shots. An interesting anecdote on that topic. I once asked Ilya Kovalchuk about how he got his wristshots to be so rifling. He said growing up in Russia, his family couldn't afford to have any backup sticks, and so if he broke a stick on a slap shot, he was out of luck. So, because he was too afraid to take slap shots, fearing he'd break his stick in the process, he just worked on his wristshot. I asked Ovechkin about it too, and he agreed. He'd only have one stick with him at a practice or a game. That's how they get those wristers to get so strong.
6:02, FIRST PERIOD - Canada 3, Russia 0: Canada gets a power play goal here with :18 remaining on penalty. Dan Boyle's shot from the point gets past Evengi Nabokov thanks to a good screen in front by Marleau. Followed by a Rick Nash goal on a two-on-one. Richards takes puck from Malkin, passes to Toews who dishes one for Nash wide open. Nabokov stacks his pads, but Nash goes high and the score now is 3-0, Canada, with about seven minutes to go. This looks like Canada at its best.
9:39, FIRST PERIOD - Canada 1, Russia 0: Looks like the Russians are going with Pavel Datsyuk's line against Sidney Crosby's. Brent Seabrook gets called on an interference penalty, and Russians stacked power play goes to work. The Russian PP, for all the big names they have on it -- Ovie, Datsyuk, Malkin, Gonchar and Kovalchuk -- haven't been particularly effective. Were 2-for-16 coming into today's match. Some good chances for Russia, but Luongo is playing very soundly here. Everybody wondered about his readiness for the big stage. He was always known as Canada's next goalie, but the guy is 31. He has to prove his time is now.
16:45, FIRST PERIOD - Canada 1, Russia 0: Canada gets the early goal at 2:41. Dan Boyle rushes in and centers a pass for Ryan Getzlaf, who taps it in. Go Canada Go! cheer is massive. Canada means business here in the early going.
19:41, FIRST PERIOD - Canada 0, Russia 0: There are actually more Russian fans here than I would've thought. Way more. This could get ugly in the stands. I've been in a lot of loud buildings -- MSG in playoffs, Cameron Indoor Stadium for Duke-UNC, Stanley Cup Finals in Detroit and Pittsburgh and the cheering here at Hockey Canada Place when the teams came out just might be the loudest crowd Ive ever heard. The starters here are, for Canada: Richards, Nash and Toews vs. Ovechkin,
PREGAME: How's this for anticipation? The Russian reporters here have been asking Canada about this match against Russia since Monday, when the home team still had to play Germany to get there. They've been asking Sidney Crosby: Are you disappointed that the dream final of Canada and Russia is going to happen much sooner? Crosby, of course, deflects, but once the brackets were decided, everybody realized just what was on. Yes, this is an earlier-than-expected meeting, but so was the Pittsburgh-Washington series last spring. That didn't make it any less epic.
The tickets outside of Canada Hockey Place are going for as much as $2,000 a pop, and 30 minutes before the puck drops, the lower bowl is nearly full. The Russian team, which has had a boisterous following on most nights here in Vancouver, came out to booing; they won't feel much love tonight. Here are your lineups.
Things to watch for are how Russia will use the last change, and what matchups they'll be looking for. Will coach Vyacheslav Bykov look to match Ovie vs. Sid? If so, he should know that in the seven-game playoff between the Penguins and Capitals last spring, the games where the two superstars were on the ice together the most were the ones the Penguins won. Roberto Luongo and Evgeni Nabakov in nets. Here's an interesting bit. Ovechkin vs. Luongo lifetime: 2 goals and 2 assists in four games, but hasn't had a point on him since 2007. Crosby vs. Nabokov: 0 goals, 1 assist in 2 games.
This might be the best game of hockey we see for the rest of the tournament, which is sort of a shame, but hey, I'm just going to embrace it. Let The Game begin!