What if they had overtime back when the Montreal Canadiens and Red Army played to the most famous tie in hockey history, 3-3 at the Forum back on New Year’s Eve in 1975?
Someone could write a speculative history framed around the hypothetical seventh goal. If ever anyone undertakes the project, the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship semifinal between the U.S. and Russia would be a useful template.
That’s what the Americans’ 4-3 shootout win evokes.
Okay, it was Montreal again, but the Forum is long gone. Okay, It wasn’t a New Year’s Eve, just a January afternoon. And, okay, there wasn’t a Canadian on the ice, just a future Canadien, Russian defenceman Mikhail Sergachev.
Still, the game was electric, a white-knuckle ride through 60 minutes of regulation, 10 minutes of four-on-four overtime and seven rounds of penalty shots with a shot at gold on the line. The Russians led 1-0 and 2-1. The Americans came back and led 3-2 and five minutes into the third period had a penalty shot to take a two-goal lead.
Russian goalie Ilya Samsonov made a breath-taking glove save on Clayton Keller to keep his team in the game and on the next shift Denis Guryanov deked out the Americans’ netminder Tyler Parsons to tie the game. Over the last 14 minutes in regulation Samsonov and Parsons faced five five-star scoring chances apiece and had answers for everything that faced them.
The final shot totals through the first 60 minutes, 36 pucks on Samsonov and 28 on Parsons, only hint at how high-paced the action was. Ditto the shots in the third: eight by the Russians, seven by the U.S.
The outcome remained in doubt right down to Troy Terry’s final deke-out of Samsonov, the Washington Capitals’ first-round pick in 2015. Terry did a Jonathan Toews number on Samsonov, going three for three in shootout attempts, each time a different move, each time a similar result, the puck beating the netminder through the five-hole.
“I don’t know what he did,” said Clayton Keller, Arizona’s first rounder last June. “When I missed [in the second round] I didn’t watch the rest of the shootout.”
Keller missed not only Terry eventually getting it done with the game on his stick but also Parsons getting it done at the other end in the Americans’ net.
Parsons had never played for a U.S. team prior to this world juniors, but he knows something about pressure—well, sort of, anyway. Parsons was the man in goal for the London Knights on their roll through the OHL and the Memorial Cup last spring. Back again with the Knights this season he has a (im)perfect record in shootouts in the OHL this season: He’s 0-for-5.
“I haven’t had much luck in shootouts [with London],” he said. “The last one I lost, I think shots went in off the post three times.”
Only one puck beat Parsons and went in off a post in the shootout: In the sixth round Guryanov, the Russians’ best forward and a constant threat, hit the iron when he beat Parsons.
Russia lost to Canada by a couple of goals on December 26 and lost 3-2 to the U.S. in the final game of the opening round but in no way did the team on the ice at the Bell Centre resemble those from the play-in games. They came bolder and more focused, which is the way Russian teams track at the under-20s.
Sergachev, the Montreal first-rounder last June, had not impressed in those first games. Said one veteran NHL scout: “I thought he had a chance to be the best player in the tournament but I’ve seen him play a lot better.” Against the Americans it was another story for Sergachev. On the downside, he screened Samsonov on the third American goal, Colin White’s snapshot with five minutes left in the second period, but that was just his worst moment. In 25-plus minutes he looked like he could be back in the Bell Centre next season rather than returning to the Windsor Spitfires as a 19-year-old.
The Americans had the last change in the semis and coach Bob Motzko wanted his best defenceman, Charlie McAvoy, out against the Russians’ top line, Kirill Kaprizov, Mikhail Vorobyov and Alexander Polunin. At the end of the game McAvoy, a Boston Bruins draft pick, logged a game-leading 31:55 of ice time, going plus-2.
For 11 players on this U.S. team, Keller, White and McAvoy included, this wasn’t a first brush with overtime on the world stage.
“We went to overtime at the under-18s a couple of years ago,” Keller said. “But this one was way more intense.”