Jason Brough

Finland beats Russia in overtime for World Juniors gold

In a thrilling gold-medal game today in Helsinki, Finland completed its storybook World Juniors tournament with a 4-3 overtime victory over Russia.

The hosts very nearly blew it, surrendering the tying goal with just six seconds remaining in regulation. But a terrific individual effort by Kasperi Kapanen (Maple Leafs) won it early in sudden death.

From the IIHF:

In the Russian zone, Aleksi Saarela found Kapanen, who eluded defenceman Sergei Boikov and circled the net to score on a wrap-around as goalie Alexander Georgiev lunged haplessly with his stick.

This is Finland’s fourth World Junior gold medal of all time. They also won in 1987, 1998, and 2014. They have now earned gold at two out of the last three tournaments.

On the way to beating Russia, the Finns defeated the defending gold-medalists from Canada in the quarterfinals, then they took out their rivals from Sweden in the semifinals.

Finland’s Jesse Puljujarvi was named the top forward and MVP of the tournament. Just 17 years old, Puljujarvi is draft eligible in 2016.

USA’s Zach Werenski (Columbus) was named the top defenseman. Sweden’s Linus Soderstrom (Islanders) was the top goalie.

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    Ron Wilson on World Juniors experience: ‘I learned I could still coach’

    WINNIPEG, CANADA - FEBRUARY 7: Toronto Maple Leafs' head coach Ron Wilson calls instructions to his team during a game against the Winnipeg Jets in NHL action at the MTS Centre on February 7, 2012 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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    Ron Wilson isn’t banking on a return to an NHL bench after leading the Americans to bronze at the World Juniors.

    But the former head coach of the Ducks, Capitals, Sharks and Maple Leafs did enjoy his experience with USA Hockey.

    “I learned I could still coach,” Wilson told the Toronto Star. “Sometimes I had my doubts there after my Toronto experience. I was getting criticized from all sides. You learn to trust yourself. That’s what I did, I trusted myself and we were rewarded.”

    Wilson was as outspoken and self-assured as ever the past few weeks. He called out TSN for hyping up the tournament to the detriment of Team Canada. He called out Team Canada for taking too many penalties versus the Finns. He even quasi-bragged that he “couldn’t tell you any players on the Russian team,” right before the Russians beat his American squad in the semifinals.

    Though Wilson said he’d “entertain” an offer from an NHL team, the 60-year-old said he wasn’t “expecting anything” and that the only thing he planned to do now was get back to golfing.

    Related: Columnist implores Leafs fans to stop being so mean to Ron Wilson

    The Ducks have found their ‘identity,’ and it’s ‘defense first’

    NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  Tyler Kennedy #48 of the New Jersey Devils takes the puck as Ryan Kesler #17 of the Anaheim Ducks defends on December 19, 2015 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.The Anaheim Ducks defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-1.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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    The past few years, the big question a lot of people had about the Anaheim Ducks was whether they were good enough defensively.

    In that way, the Ducks were a bit like this year’s Dallas Stars. You knew they could score, but you wondered about their ability to win tight-checking, low-scoring games in the playoffs.

    Things couldn’t be much different this year. Almost halfway through the season, the Ducks have scored the fewest goals in the NHL. After a horrendous start, it’s been defense that’s gotten them back into a playoff position.

    “We’ve found our identity,” center Ryan Kesler told the L.A. Times. “I think with this team it starts with defense first and then we’re going to create off that.”

    Since the beginning of December, Anaheim has won seven games. Here are the scorelines: 1-0, 2-1, 2-1, 4-2, 1-0, 1-0, and 4-1.

    What’s it like to play the Ducks now?

    “It was extreme, the biggest trap we’ve seen all year,” Calgary d-man Mark Giordano told Sportsnet. “When we had possession, they fell back.”

    And the Flames managed just 14 shots in a 1-0 Anaheim win.

    It may not be the prettiest hockey to watch, but for coach Bruce Boudreau, it beats losing.

    “What does a coach have to do?” he said. “You do what you have to do to win.”

    Boudreau, of course, went through something remarkably similar during his time as head coach of the Washington Capitals. At first, he was criticized because the high-flying Caps didn’t play with enough commitment to defense. Later, he was criticized because they got away from their run-and-gun waysRegardless of the style they played, the Caps couldn’t win when it counted, and that cost Boudreau his job.

    Earlier this season, after the Ducks started out 1-7-2, many expected Boudreau to once again pay the price with his job. However, GM Bob Murray chose patience over “rash changes.”

    It still remains to be seen whether that was the right decision, but at the very least things are starting to trend in the right direction.

    Anaheim is one game into what could be a season-defining eight-game home stand. The Ducks beat the Jets, 4-1, on Sunday. They host Toronto on Wednesday.

    Related: Unable to score, Ducks are clogging it up real good

    Benning says Canucks have ‘too much pride’ to tank

    2015 NHL Draft - Round One
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    The Vancouver Canucks have won just 15 games this season.

    Do you know how many teams have fewer wins than that?

    Not a one.

    Philadelphia, Toronto, Buffalo, and Columbus also have just 15 victories.

    Hence the growing feeling among much of the Canucks fanbase that the best thing for the future of this franchise would be to keep losing, sell at the trade deadline, and get a blue-chip prospect in the draft, possibly even Auston Matthews.

    The worst-case scenario for those who feel that way would be another first-round playoff exit, just like last year.

    Management, however, feels otherwise.

    “I understand the thinking in that, but we have too much pride in this organization,” GM Jim Benning told TSN 1040 radio this morning. “That’s just not an option for us. We’re going to go out and compete hard every night and try to win games.”

    And if they go out again in the first round? Because thanks to their membership in the Pacific Division, that’s a distinct possibility. 

    In that case, Benning — who won a Stanley Cup in Boston with a roster chock-full of savvy draft picks — is willing to bank the Canucks’ future on his abilities as a talent evaluator.

    “I’m confident in the job that we’re going to do scouting,” he said. “Wherever we pick we’re going to get a good player in the first round.”

    Related: Canucks ownership not veering from plan to remain ‘competitive’

    Desperate Rangers make changes for tonight’s game against ‘elite’ Stars

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    No shortage of storylines for the reeling New York Rangers when they host the Dallas Stars tonight.

    Let’s start with Jayson Megna, the 25-year-old forward who was called up yesterday from the AHL. Megna will make his Rangers debut. The undrafted Florida native has 48 games of NHL experience with Pittsburgh.

    “We’ve had some really good reports from our guys in Hartford on how he’s been playing,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said this morning. “Very consistent at both ends of the ice. Very competitive.”

    Megna has seven goals and 11 assists in 34 games for the offensively challenged Wolf Pack.

    Then there’s forward Kevin Hayes, set to return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games.

    “We need him to play well for us,” said Vigneault. “Kevin has all the possibilities. He’s got great tools, we all know it. He’s got to find a way to put it all together.”

    The Rangers will be without winger Chris Kreider against the high-flying Stars, due to a cut on his hand. He’s considered day-to-day. Emerson Etem is expected to be a healthy scratch.

    As for tonight’s opponents, Vigneault knows it won’t be easy.

    “We know we’re playing against an elite team, one of the best teams in the NHL,” he said. “So you’ve got to bring your best game tonight. You’ve got to get the timely saves, you’ve got to get the timely goals, and work your butt off. That’s what we’re going to try and do.”

    The Rangers are 5-11-2 since starting the season 16-3-2, and their playoff cushion has fallen to just two points.