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You didn't need a scoreboard, you could see it in the faces.

Rick Nash's face, white, fallen, mouth open, eyes staring with the sort of stunned bewilderment people show when stepping out from a hard fender-bender.

Cam Ward's face. Hidden beneath his goalie mask, his expression unnecessary for watchers to know how wretched he felt.

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Ilya Kovalchuk's face, red and drenched in tears, the face of a young man relieved to find his world once again righted, his earlier disasters now forgotten.

It was a fabulous game with a rather pitiful ending yesterday. Russia and Canada for the gold medal in the first world championship held in Canada. Canada up 3-1, up 4-2, only to lose in overtime 5-4.

It had been Kovalchuk, who had had such a terrible tournament, who had missed the previous two games because of suspensions, who had sent the game into overtime when the Atlanta Thrashers star fired a puck that Ward should have had but seemed to lose in a screen.

A goal that, in the opinion of Canadian head coach Ken Hitchcock, was "a little fluky" to say the least.

And then, in overtime - with the teams playing 4-on-4 - Canada's leading player, Nash, did nothing but flick a puck toward the glass to get it out of his own end. The puck disappeared, the Canadians thought into the bench.

But the Russians protested and the officials huddled, deciding that Nash's clearance had been from his own end, barely, had cleared the glass and, therefore, under a relatively new rule for the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation, was worthy of a penalty.

Nash was sitting in the box a minute later when the three Canadian defenders could do nothing as the fourth Russian on the ice, Kovalchuk again, moved in off the point and blasted a hard shot past Ward to win the game.

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Russia gold, Canada silver.

"We didn't come here to win silver," a visibly disappointed Ward said.

They had come, as all Canadian teams come, to win gold, and it seemed almost certain halfway through this game that they would pull it off. They had gone through this three-week marathon in Halifax and Quebec City unbeaten. Nash, defenceman Mike Green and Dany Heatley were all named to the all-star team, with Heatley also picking up the trophy as tournament MVP.

He seemed unimpressed with the shiny prize, handing it off the second he could.

"I'm disappointed," said the forward who scored his 12th goal of the tournament to become Canada's all-time leader in goal scoring in a single, modern world championship.

Nash was crushed, blaming himself, it seemed, for a purely accidental flip of the puck. "I didn't see it," he said. "Guys were saying it went into the hallway."

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"I thought it was a bad call," Green said.

No matter, it stood up, and in many ways the ending was simply a matter of time as the Canadians had clearly sagged and the Russians began coming on in the third period.

Hitchcock had noticed it. He felt it had been Canada's game for the first two-thirds, Russia's for the third that mattered. The Canadians sat back and played defensive hockey, unable to attack.

The reason was simple, Hitchcock said: "Because we didn't have the puck."

"We didn't play the way we wanted to at all in the third," Canadian forward Shane Doan said. "Once you get sitting back, it's kind of hard to get going forward."

"You sit back," Green said, "and bad things will happen."

They certainly did. When the Canadians were on their game, they got goals from Brent Burns to answer Alexander Semin's quick opening goal on the first shot of the game, then moved ahead 3-1 on goals by Chris Kunitz and Burns again.

The Kunitz goal was bizarre, with Russia's Maxim Sushinskiy colliding with Eric Staal at centre ice, both falling, and Staal tripping Sushinskiy when he regained his feet, allowing Kunitz to walk in and fire a hard slap shot past goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who was named all-star goaltender for the tournament.

Semin scored again to bring the Russians to within one early in the second period, but Heatley restored Canada's two-goal lead with a familiar Heatley blast from the high circle.

Ward seemed almost certain to be the hero of the match. He stopped Alexander (The Great) Ovechkin on a breakaway, and numerous Russians, including Kovalchuk, several times in close.

"He was phenomenal for us," Doan said.

But Ward could not stop Alexei Tereshchenko, who picked up a blocked shot and fired it just under Ward's pads.

Or Kovalchuk with barely five minutes left to bring overtime.

Or Kovalchuk again, when it counted most.

"You get a game into overtime," Hitchcock said, "it's flip a coin."

"That's hockey," Ward said. "Sometimes you've got to tip your hat to the opposition."

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