Golden dream tarnished as Canada falls to Russia

David Israelson. Toronto Star. 1 1993 . 

MUNICH - Canada's dream of winning its first world hockey championship in a generation has collapsed in defeat and recrimination after a lacklustre performance in yesterday's sudden- death semifinal against Russia.

Russia 7, Canada 4

The Canadians were crushed 7-4 by a revitalized Russia, blowing a 3-1 lead in an agonizing second period and failing to capitalize on numerous scoring opportunities.

"Hopefully all Canadians can learn from this," a dejected head coach Mike Keenan said after the game.

He was so disappointed in the team's weak defence and tepid offence that he declined to put down rumors that players spent the night before the game drinking and carousing - which the players themselves emphatically denied.

"It is unfortunate if it is indeed true. I can't substantiate it one way or the other," Keenan said.

"There is some truth in the fact that Canadians don't seem to be as respectful of the tournament as they can be."

But team captain Adam Graves termed such suggestions "crazy," adding that "I'd put my next paycheque in New York up that no one was out last night."

Graves will play next year under Keenan, who has been named coach of the New York Rangers.

"I know for a fact that everyone was in their room. This was a very important game," Graves said.

The Canadian players are not known to be a partying crowd.

Graves said the players observed their curfew although Keenan, who has been ill all week, had been unable to check up on them at night.

But whatever happened the night before, any sense of urgency was hard to detect from the Canadian team's effort on the ice. They lacked the relentless drive and precision that the players showed through their first six wins in the tournament.

The upset took place before a sellout crowd of 11,000, some of whom paid up to $130 for a ticket.

Canada will play today for the bronze against the Czech Republic, while the Russians face off against Sweden in tomorrow's gold medal game. Sweden beat the Czechs 4-3 in overtime yesterday to qualify.

The last time Canada won a world championship was in 1961, when the gold went to the Trail (B.C.) Smoke Eaters.

As far as the hockey itself goes, Keenan attributed yesterday's loss to the collapse of Canada's defence, and its failure to guard a lead in the second period.

He also praised the Russians for showing "maturity through adversity," contrasting their performance with the Canadians who "unfortunately did not represent our team and our country very well."

Russian coach Boris Mikhailov said simply that "I asked my guys to play fast."

Canada got off to a promising start when left winger Shayne Corson tipped in a Dave Manson blast from the point at 7:07 of the first. Norm Maciver also drew an assist on the play, while Eric Lindros screened Russian goalie Andrei Trevilov.

Russia tied it up at 10:29, taking advantage of a loose puck that defenceman Dmitri Yushkevich knocked in.

Then at 18:52, Russian defenceman Sergei Shandalev drew a major penalty for high-sticking and with him still in the box at the opening of the second period, Canada came on strong when Manson scored at 1:09 with a slapshot from just inside the Russian blue line.

Just 12 seconds later, Corson slammed another one in with a high shot to put the Canadians ahead 3-1.

But then everything fell apart.

The Russians came back at 6:47 when centre German Titov scooped one in off a pass from behind the net from Andrei Nikolishin.

Less than two minutes later, at 8:15, Russia tied the game with a goal by defenceman Andrei Astrakhantsev, who scored from a scramble in front of the net.

At 12:44 Russia took the lead, when centre Vyatcheslav Bykov hit the mark with a hard drive from just outside the crease, catching Canadian goalie Bill Ranford off guard on the right side.

Less than three minutes later Canada's Dave Gagner drew a costly slashing penalty, enabling the Russians to pull ahead 5-3 on a power play marker by Nikolishin.

In the third period, Lindros finally showed a bit of the sparkle he demonstrated through most of the tournament, smashing in a drive at 39 seconds off a pass from Maciver. The goal was the 11th for Lindros, who leads the tournament in total points.

But at 3:52 Russia deflated Canada's hopes with a smooth wrist shot by Valery Karpov, putting the Canadians behind 6-4.

Those hopes were smashed altogether at 14:33 with a quick flip into the net by Titov.

Canada then replaced Ranford in the net with Ron Tugnutt.

The change "was a reflection of the fact that the team abandoned its defensive responsibilities and subjected Bill Ranford to too many (scoring) opportunities that he didn't deserve," Keenan said.

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