Late in the second period Sunday, Canada's Sam Reinhart bisected Russia's coverage with a textbook cross-seam pass through a tiny portal in the sticks filling passing lanes, as his older brother Griffin Reinhart, slid down from the point.
In another time, another year, maybe a situation other than a world junior championship bronze medal game, it would have been a goal for Team Canada. Instead the puck hit the heel of the elder Reinhart's stick and bounced away, can you believe it dissolving into c'est la vie. That sequence, one of just many that determined the outcome in Russia's 2-1 win, summed up the kind of game and tournament it was for Canada.
The result means Canada has missed the WJC podium in back-to-back years for the first time since Hockey Canada created its Program of Excellence was founded in 1982. The national junior program still has a streak of 16 consecutive years of reaching the semifinal, for what that is worth.
The game's first 40 minutes at the Malmo Arena had a distinct lack of emotion. Russia built a 2-0 lead on an early power-play goal by Buffalo Sabres youngster Mikhail Grigorenko that went in off the foot of Canada defenceman Mathew Dumba and an Eduard Gimatov tally on a wrist shot from well out.
Canada carried the play from the second period onward, but Tampa Bay Lightning first-rounder Andrei Vasilevski (30 saves) was his typically solid self. The lone Canadian goal came off a deflection by Winnipeg Jets first-rounder Josh Morrissey 7:10 into the third period. Canada was gifted with a chance to tie shortly thereafter when Russia incurred its third too-many-men penalty of the game, but Russia's penalty kill weathered the pressure, with Andrei Mironov coming up with a key zone-clearing deflection to prevent Canada's leading goal scorer Anthony Mantha from getting an opportunity.
Vasilevski helped Russia beat Canada 6-5 to win the bronze game at the 2013 tourney. He also started, but did not finish, when Russia held off Canada by the same score in the 2012 semifinal before winning the silver.
Finishing fourth means Canada and the U.S. will be in the round-robin group based in Montreal during next season's world junior. The winner of the Sweden-Finland gold-medal game will also be placed in that group.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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