Team Canada closes Sochi Games on a high
SOCHI, Russia - Canada ended the Sochi Olympics the same way it ended the Vancouver Games four years ago — with a gold medal in men's hockey.
Canada fell shot of its stated goal of winning the most medals of any country in Sochi, and will take home one fewer medal than the 26 won in Vancouver. But Team Canada's dominating 3-0 win over Sweden to end the Olympics on Sunday will go down as one of the country's many memorable moments over the course of the Games.
Canada ended up fourth in overall medals in Sochi with 25 — 10 gold, 10 silver and five bronze.
Host Russia, with a huge closing weekend, finished top of the table with 33 medals (13 gold, 11 silver, nine bronze). The United States was second with 28 (nine gold, seven silver, 12 bronze) and Norway was third with 26 (11 gold, five silver, 10 bronze).
Beating or even matching the 2010 performance was going to be a tall order for Canada without home-ice and home-snow advantage. The Canadian team came close thanks to five medals won in new sports introduced in Sochi.
"We asked our athletes to contend," Canada's chef de mission Steve Podborski said Sunday. "Our athletes have done so. It's not easy. Sometimes it doesn't work very well at all. But they stood up. They stood together.
"I'm delighted with the performance they have offered us, and what they have done for themselves and for their teammates."
Team Canada capped that performance with a workmanlike and near flawless win in the gold medal game against Sweden.
Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz each scored his first goal of the tournament for Canada, while Carey Price made 24 saves for his second shutout in as many games.
"I thought we were dominant," Canada coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we played great."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed, congratulating the team in a statement.
"On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to our men's Olympic hockey team on achieving the gold medal at the Sochi Winter Games," Harper said.
"Today's exciting victory by this exceptional group of players has demonstrated once again that hockey truly is Canada's game. The passion and dedication shown by our team throughout this gruelling competition have inspired Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and have made us all extremely proud."
Having three Canadian forwards score, particularly Crosby and Toews, was a welcome sight for the Canadians, who had some trouble scoring in the tournament and seemed to get most of their goals from the blue-line.
"I think just regardless of what happened in the prior games, this game was the biggest one and we all knew that," Crosby said. "Regardless if I scored that or not, we all wanted to make sure we did our part."
And the Canadians always did do their part. Even when the forwards weren't scoring, they were forechecking or coming back to help the defence. And when the defence wasn't limiting the opposition's scoring chances, it was jumping into the play to create problems on offence.
When asked whether it was the best defensive team Canada has ever put on the ice, Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman replied "I believe so."
With the women's team beating the U.S. 3-2 in a thrilling overtime final earlier in the week, Canada won double hockey gold for a second straight Olympics.
However, Sunday's medal wasn't enough to cut into Russia's impressive final tally. The hosts put their stamp on the Games with a podium sweep in the men's cross-country race and another medal in bobsled Sunday.
After a dismal 2010 with just 15 medals including three gold, the host team scooped up seven medals on the final weekend to claim the overall title.
"Russia nailed it," said Caroline Assalian, the Canadian Olympic Committee's chief sport officer.
Also Sunday, Canadian sleds finished ninth, 13th and 30th in the four-man bobsled, and Alex Harvey of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., was the top Canadian in the 50-kilometre mass start cross-country race, finishing 19th.