DAVOS, Switzerland – So close.
Czech forward Peter Cajanek scored three times as Moscow Dynamo hung on for a 5-3 win over Canada in the Spengler Cup final Wednesday. Canada rallied from 3-0 down and Randy Robitaille closed the gap to 4-3 with a quick shot from the slot midway through the third. But Maxim Pestushko grabbed a Serge Aubin turnover at the Canadian blue-line and roofed a wrist shot past Daren Machesney with less than three minutes remaining to seal the win.
“They (Moscow Dynamo) came out with a strong effort and got the jump on us,” said Canadian team coach Sean Simpson. “But the guys didn’t give up and came back and almost came back all the way.
“When we scored to make it 4-3 I’m sure we had eight good chances to tie it but the puck just wouldn’t land on our stick or it would bounce here and bounce there. If we tie it 4-4, who knows? We could be talking about a second straight championship, but that’s sport and especially at this level the difference between total success and not winning is very, very little.”
Simpson and the Canadian squad know that first-hand. Simpson was behind Canada’s bench last year when it won this event with a close 2-1 victory over Russian club Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
“As disappointed as I am at not winning because every time you represent Canada you want to win, I’m awful proud of the effort the guys put forth,” Simpson said. “We had a good tournament, we just fell a little short.
“In this tournament, every game is like sudden death and so important. You can’t blow even one period. It’s crazy how it works.”
But one Canadian was able to celebrate Dynamo’s win. Forward Eric Landry, a native of Gatineau, Que., is in his second season with the Moscow squad and after the game hoisted the Spengler Cup trophy with his teammates.
Landry, 33, played in the NHL with the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens and also spent time with Swiss clubs in Lausanne, Basel, and Bern.
Canada beat Dynamo 6-3 on Tuesday to qualify for the championship game and a chance at consecutive titles. But the Russian club, which had already clinched a berth in the final, was able to rest its starting goalie and several others in the final round-robin contest.
“We knew going into that game what the situation was, that we had to win to get to the final while they didn’t,” Simpson said. “We knew this would be a different game but they really didn’t do anything differently.
“They just were more determined, more motivated, that’s all.”
Canada was in a must-win situation Tuesday after dropping a 6-5 shootout decision to host club HC Davos earlier in the tournament. Simpson said had the Canadians won that game, then he would have had the luxury of also being able to rest regulars heading into the championship game.
“We had a bad 10 minutes against Davos and that made us have to work hard in the final round-robin game against Dynamo Moscow,” he said. “Had we won the Davos game, we wouldn’t have had to win (Tuesday) and maybe we would’ve been fresher (for final).
“Of the five games we played, we had maybe 20 bad minutes but that’s enough to make you a runner-up. That’s how close it is. There’s not much room for error.”
Dynamo led 3-0 before Canada pulled back a pair of goals 18 seconds apart in the last minute of the second period – from Micki Dupont and Hnat Domenichelli, on the power play – to pull within one.
But Cajanek scored 23 seconds in the third to restore a two-goal lead before a crowd of 6,746.
Cajanek and Ivan Neprjaev, on the power play, scored 35 seconds apart midway through the second to make it 3-0.
Simpson said Wednesday’s outcome wasn’t an indication that this Canadian squad was vastly different from the one that won the tournament title last year.
“Both were very good, both did their utmost to win and both were fully motivated to win,” he said. “It’s just the small details, like a bounce here or there.
“There’s nothing really that you can put your finger as far as our team goes. It’s just the way the tournament runs and the way it goes.”
One difference, though, was this year’s team was playing in honour of former assistant coach Jim Koleff, who died last month of cancer at age 55.
Canada has appeared in eight of the last nine championship games, winning the Spengler Cup in 2002, 2003 and last year.
Overall, Canada has won the Spengler Cup 11 times (1984, 1986, 1987, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2007) since first taking part in the tournament in 1984.
The Spengler Cup, held annually since 1923, is the world’s oldest pro international hockey tournament. The event features club teams and a Canadian entry, which in recent years has been made up of European-based players.