Mission accomplished for the four Colorado Avalanche players on Team Canada.
Coming in as one of the favorites and with a 'gold or bust' attitude, the Canadians were looking to break their five-year medal-less drought at the IIHF World Championship. They did that and more as they put an exclamation point on an impressive overall effort at the 2015 tournament.
Canada ran away with the gold medal on Sunday in a 6-1 victory over defending champion Russia in the title game at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic. It is Canada's first gold medal at the annual event since 2007 and its first medal of any kind since earning silver in back-to-back years in 2008 and 2009. The nation had lost in the quarterfinals in each of the past five world championships.
The Avs' Nathan MacKinnon scored his fourth goal of the tournament while Tyson Barrie and Ryan O'Reilly each added an assist in the victory. Matt Duchene had two shots in 14:43 of ice time while centering Canada's third line with MacKinnon and Jason Spezza on his wings.
It should be no surprise that Canada finished as champions after its high-octane offense dominated the competition. The Canadians scored 66 goals while only giving up 15, which included a 17-1 scoring margin in three playoff games. They went a perfect 10-0, winning every game in regulation.
The championship is Canada's 25th at the tournament and caps off a 16-month period where the country won Olympic gold in both men's and women's ice hockey, a world junior championship and now a men's world title. Canada also won gold last time the tournament was held in the Czech Republic in 2004.
While Canada outshot Russia 15-5 in the first 20 minutes, the Russians did get their fair share of scoring opportunities in the first period. However, Canada entered the intermission up by one after Cody Eakin tallied with 1:50 remaining.
The 1-0 lead quickly improved to 2-0 as Tyler Ennis beat Russia goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky on a wraparound just 1:56 into the second period. Sidney Crosby scored on a quick shot from the left circle at 7:22, and Tyler Seguin picked up his ninth of the tournament after finishing a nice behind-the-back pass from Claude Giroux 44 seconds later.
Barrie assisted on Seguin's goal for his fifth helper and sixth point of the 10-game affair. He ended with a plus-12 rating, tied for third highest in the tournament.
Russia was outshot 14-1 in the middle frame, widening Canada's margin in the category to 29-6 after 40 minutes.
Giroux made it a 5-0 game with a power-play goal at 8:58 of the third period, finishing a beautiful passing sequence by Crosby and O'Reilly. With the puck down low, O'Reilly moved up to the half-wall in the offensive zone, switching places with Crosby, before passing to the Canada captain below the goal line. Crosby then found Giroux open across the slot.
The assist gives O'Reilly nine at the World Championship and brings his point total to 11 after he added two goals earlier in the two-week competition. His nine helpers were tied for the second most with teammate Brent Burns at the event.
MacKinnon finished the scoring for Canada 52 seconds after Giroux's tally on a shot from the left circle. The puck hit Bobrovsky in his left shoulder, hopped behind him and trickled into cage.
It was MacKinnon's ninth point (four goals, five assists) at the 2015 Worlds. He fired 18 total shots at the tournament, scoring on 22.22 percent of them.
Russia finally broke through Canada goalie Mike Smith on an Evgeni Malkin deflection in front with 7:13 remaining in the game. It was the first goal Smith had allowed in the playoff rounds after he posted a 9-0 shutout in the quarterfinals over Belarus and a perfect 2-0 win over the Czech Republic in the semifinals.
Duchene closed his fourth world championship tied for third overall in scoring with 12 points. He scored four goals and added eight assists and finished with a plus-10 rating.
The Colorado center is now one stage away from joining the Triple Gold Club for players who have won a Stanley Cup and gold medals at the World Championship and Olympics. Duchene won gold with Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
BRONZE MEDAL GAME
UNITED STATES (3) VS. CZECH REPUBLIC (0)
As Avalanche defenseman Zach Redmond returns home to the United States after his first international experience, he'll have some extra hardware in tow: a World Championship medal.
Two first-period goals and 39 saves from Connor Hellebuyck was all the U.S. needed in a 3-0 win over host Czech Republic in the bronze medal game on Sunday at O2 Arena in Prague. It is the Americans' second medal in three years at the World Championship after they also won bronze at the 2013 tournament in Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland. The U.S. last accomplished the feat of winning two medals in three years in 1950 and 1952 when it won two silvers.
Redmond appeared in his fifth game at the World Championship while playing 8:45 and finishing with a plus-1 rating as the United States' seventh defenseman, a role he was in throughout the tournament. The 2015 competition marked the first time Redmond played for USA Hockey in an international competition. He finished with one assist, two penalty minutes and a plus-3 rating in five games.
Nick Bonino and Trevor Lewis gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead in the first period after Bonino tallied at 7:25 and Lewis with 1:47 left.
Shots were tied 11-11 after the opening 20 minutes, but the Czechs dominated the category for the rest of the game. The Czech Republic outshot the U.S. 28-5 in the final two periods, but couldn't get anything past Hellebuyck.
Czech and Avs defenseman Jan Hejda had one shot in 14:04 of ice time.
Charlie Coyle added an insurance tally for the Americans with his third goal in five games with 49.8 seconds left in the second period.
The United States is now 4-3 in bronze medal games at the World Championship. The national team also won the bronze at the 2004 tournament in Prague when it defeated Slovakia 1-0.
USA posted an 8-1-0-1 record at the 2014 competition. The team's eight victories are its most in a single World Championship.
The quarterfinals have been a thorn in Canada's side in recent years at the World Championship.
That is not the case in 2015 though, as the Canadians continued their offensive surge Thursday in a 9-0 victory over Belarus at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2009.
Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly, Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin and San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns led the way for Team Canada, which is averaging 7.25 goals per game in the tournament. O'Reilly scored twice and added an assist versus Belarus, while Seguin had a hat trick and Burns finished with four points (two goals and two assists).
This year marks the first time that Canada will play for a medal since the team made it to the semifinals in seven straight years from 2003 to 2009. Canada last won gold in 2007, but its last medals have been silvers, earned in 2008 and 2009.
Belarus scored three second period goals and beat Denmark 5-1 on Tuesday at CEZ Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Denmark (0-0-1-2) held a 1-0 lead after the first period, but Belarus (2-0-1-0) recorded the next five tallies to help it move into second place in Group B with seven points. Belarus has a one-point lead over Russia and Finland in the standings.
Colorado Avalanche prospect Markus Lauridsen of Denmark finished with two shots and a minus-3 rating in 16:48 of ice time. He was given a 20-minute penalty for throwing an object with 5:16 left in the contest.
The young Americans are off to their best start at the World Championship in nearly two decades.
The United States remained undefeated and took the top spot in Group B on Monday with a 4-2 victory over Russia at CEZ Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic. USA is now 3-0-0-0 for the first time since the 1997 tournament.
Trevor Lewis, Torey Krug, Mark Arcobello and Brock Nelson scored for Team USA, which has an average age of 24.3 years old and features five players that played college hockey last season.
Avalanche defenseman Zach Redmond made his debut at the World Championship after being a healthy scratch in the U.S.'s first two games. It was the Traverse City, Mich., native's first international experience with USA Hockey.
Canada continued its dominant play at the World Championship with its second blowout win in as many games.
Fourteen players on Canada's roster picked up a point Sunday in a 10-0 victory over Germany at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic. Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene led the Canadians in scoring with four points after registering three assists and scoring a penalty-shot goal in the third period.
Canada (2-0-0-0) won its opening contest against Latvia on Friday by a 6-1 score.
Duchene's line, which also included the Edmonton Oilers' Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, led the charge for Team Canada. Hall recorded a hat trick, with Duchene assisting on all three tallies, while Eberle finished with two helpers.
Austria tied the game in the final minute of regulation and completed the comeback in the shootout with a 4-3 win over Switzerland on Saturday at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.
Avalanche goaltender Reto Berra made 22 saves for the Swiss. He wasn't tested much in the first 40 minutes, only facing eight shots before seeing 12 pucks in the third period and four more in overtime.
Switzerland (0-0-1-0) held three one-goal leads in the contest, but the Austrians rallied each time to knot the game. Austria's Michael Raffl recorded the tying goal with the extra attacker on the ice with 50 seconds left in the third period.
Colorado Avalanche players were scattered throughout the scoresheet for Team Canada in the opening game of the 2015 World Championship at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.
Forwards Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon scored while defenseman Tyson Barrie added an assist for Canada on Friday in a 6-1 victory over Latvia, a team that nearly provided an upset in a quarterfinal matchup of the squads at the 2014 Olympics.
MacKinnon also added two assists in the contest on goals from Jason Spezza for his first three-point game in IIHF competition. The Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native had only recorded four total points (one goal and three assists) in eight World Championship games a year ago and only registered one assist in six contests at the 2013 World Juniors.
MacKinnon was on the wing of Canada's top forward line with Crosby (also from Cole Harbour) and Spezza, and the trio lived up to its billing.
Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon's World Championship run fell short Thursday as Canada lost 3-2 to Finland in the quarterfinals at Chizhovka Arena in Minsk, Belarus.
This marks the fifth straight year that Canada has lost in the quarterfinals. Its last medal at the World Championship was a silver in 2009 following a loss to Russia in the championship final.
Nathan MacKinnon during a 2014 IIHF World Championship game in Minsk, Belarus with Team Canada (Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images).
Canada won gold at the Sochi Olympics last February and was bidding to become the second team to capture in the same year Olympics and World Championship gold (Sweden, 2006).
Canada held a 2-1 lead in the second period Thursday after Kyle Turris (Senators) and Mark Scheifele (Jets) found the net, but Finland quickly turned the game back in its favor early in the third.
Juuso Hietanen scored just 28 seconds into the final stanza to tie the contest at 2-2, and Iiro Pakarinen scored the winner for Finland after receiving a pass from Jori Lehtera in the slot during an odd-man rush and firing a shot far-side with 3:08 left.
"For the most part I thought our team played well," Canada coach Dave Tippett (Coyotes) said. "We controlled long portions of the game. We made a couple of mistakes that cost us the game. Our goal was to get better every day. That was probably the best game we've played here."
Nathan MacKinnon had two assists on Friday to help Team Canada win its fourth consecutive game at the 2014 IIHF World Championship with a 6-1 victory over Italy.
The Canadians have won each of their contests since losing to France in the tournament opener last Friday. They have outscored their opponents by a 20-6 margin in those wins.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the first period, Canada scored four times in the middle frame and once more with 3:30 remaining. MacKinnon assisted on Canada's final two scores, Cody Hodgson's tally at 16:15 of the second and Brayden Schenn's goal at 16:30 of the third.
MacKinnon now has four points (one goal and three assists) in his first world championship. He also had six shots and two penalty minutes against Italy.
Canada (4-0-1) sits in second place in Group A and just one point behind undefeated Sweden (5-0-0). The top two teams will face off on Sunday at 7:45 a.m. MT.
SWISS FALL IN SHOOTOUT
In Group B on Friday, Reto Berra did all he could in net but Switzerland lost 3-2 in a shootout to Finland.
Berra made 22 saves and stopped Finland's first four skaters in the shootout before Iiro Pakarinen scored in the fifth round to secure the win for the Finns. No Swiss players scored in the tiebreaker.
Switzerland will play Kazakhstan, last place in Group B, on Saturday at 11:45 a.m. MT.
Avalanche prospects Markus Lauridsen of Denmark and Jonas Holos of Norway did not have tournament games on Friday. Lauridsen and Denmark are seventh in Group A with a 1-3-0 record, while Holos has contributed two points (one goal and one assist) to help Denmark to fourth in Group A with a 2-2-0 mark.
Nathan MacKinnon and Canada opened their 2014 IIHF World Championship on Friday with a 3-2 shootout loss to France at Chizhovka Arena. The win for France marked only the second time in the country's history at the tournament that it had beaten the hockey power, with it last defeating Canada in April 1995 by a 4-1 score.
MacKinnon had the assist on Erik Gudbranson's go-ahead goal that gave the Canadians a 2-1 lead at 10:42 of the third period, but Stephane da Costa's second goal of the night tied the game at 2-2 for the French less than two minutes later.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare won the game for France in the shootout as he scored in third round, the only goal of the tiebreaker. MacKinnon did not participate in the shootout for Canada.
France opened the game's scoring with da Costa's first goal of the game with 2:57 left in the first period, but the French lead was short lived as Canada quickly answered to tie the contest with 16 seconds remaining in the stanza.
Elsewhere on Day 1 of the tournament, Avs goalie Reto Berra's Switzerland team lost 5-0 to Russia in its first game. Berra was the backup goalie for the Swiss and did not play in the game.