Canada skates to golden perfection

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Nash named MVP as Team Canada goes 9-0 in tournament with a 4-2 win over Finland in final

They came to Moscow in search of world hockey championship gold; the perfect record is merely a bonus.

Team Canada was unbeatable here, an awesome and spotless 9-0, and on Sunday the Finns were simply another obstacle on the road to gold. Finland banged in two late goals to put the pro-Canada crowd on edge, but the Canadians hung on for a 4-2 win at Khodynka Arena and collected the 24th gold medal in the country's world championship history, the first since 2004.

"The last thing I said to them before they went on the ice is, 'Every one of you during your youth hockey days has played in a tournament,'" said coach Andy Murray. "'You've played for your community centre, you've played for your club, you've played for your home town. Today you get a chance to win a gold medal for your country and that's special.'"

Team Canada players, including brothers Eric Staal (centre left) and Jordan Staal (centre right) sing the national anthem after a 4-2 victory over Finland at the World Ice Hockey championship final match in Moscow Sunday. Photo by The Associated Press

They came to Moscow in search of world hockey championship gold; the perfect record is merely a bonus.

Team Canada was unbeatable here, an awesome and spotless 9-0, and on Sunday the Finns were simply another obstacle on the road to gold. Finland banged in two late goals to put the pro-Canada crowd on edge, but the Canadians hung on for a 4-2 win at Khodynka Arena and collected the 24th gold medal in the country's world championship history, the first since 2004.

"The last thing I said to them before they went on the ice is, 'Every one of you during your youth hockey days has played in a tournament,'" said coach Andy Murray. "'You've played for your community centre, you've played for your club, you've played for your home town. Today you get a chance to win a gold medal for your country and that's special.'"

It looked as if they wouldn't have to play much more than the first period to collect their hardware, as power-play goals by tournament MVP Rick Nash and Eric Staal gave them an easy 2-0 lead. Gritty Colby Armstrong made it 3-0 with his first goal of the tournament when he lasered a slapper past a shaky Kari Lehtonen in the second period.

The clock ticked in the third and the celebrations were being planned when Finland decided to stop taking penalties and make it interesting. Petri Kontiola scored at 11:08 and Antti Miettinen 6:36 later and the collars might have been tightening on the Canadian bench.

Cue Nash.

He finished his tour de force with a flourish, a breakaway goal as awe-inspiring as it was clutch. It was his second of the game and sixth of the tournament and though he had already been voted MVP, this was confirmation.

"I don't think I'm going to see another goal like that in my life," marvelled goalie Dwayne Roloson, who was relegated to the backup role and watched Cam Ward make 20 saves. Nash put the champagne on ice with just 1:04 to play, shaking off a defenceman who should have been arrested for assault, before beating Lehtonen one-handed to snuff out the comeback. A collective scream and then a sigh rolled through the Canadian bench.

"We had to dig in a lot in this tournament," said Murray, stressing the theme that appeared on the players' T-shirts and in video presentations. "We were digging in pretty deep there before Nash got that goal. Our emotional well as Canadian hockey players runs deeper than any other country in the world and if we've got to dig a little deeper, our well will go deeper.

"As I said to the players at the end of the game, when Rick Nash was carrying that puck, he was carrying the emotions of 31 million Canadians with him as he went in on that breakaway. What a special feeling that was."

It was the kind of finish that makes a win even sweeter, perhaps. The Canadians weren't challenged much in the last three games, after all, as the Swiss fell 5-1 and then the Swedes 4-1 before the Finns took their turn in the barrel. En route to gold the Canadians also knocked off Germany, Norway, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the United States. Perfection is not its own reward here; the medals and the trophy the players lofted after the game will be perfect keepsakes of the year they beat 'em all. And it sure beats the alternative.

"Last year we came up short. Any time you play for Canada the idea is to win that gold medal. I can't tell you how elated I am," said Mike Cammalleri, who finished fourth in 2006.

Organizations: Team Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Finland, Moscow Germany Norway Belarus Czech Republic Slovakia United States

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