Toews, Kane and Johnson relive 'instant classic' WJC shootout originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Tuesday marks the 16th anniversary of one of the most memorable shootouts in IIHF World Junior Championship history, and three Blackhawks played a major role in it: Patrick Kane, Jack Johnson and Jonathan Toews.
The day was Jan. 3, 2007, with Kane and Johnson representing Team USA against Toews and Team Canada in the semifinals. The winner moved on for a chance to capture the gold medal.
"I remember, I think both teams were pretty confident that whoever won was probably going to win the tournament," Johnson told NBC Sports Chicago. "Enough time has gone by, but I think we were by far the two best teams in the tournament, so we kind of knew that whoever won that was probably going to win the whole thing."
It was a tight game throughout, with Team USA breaking through first in the second period thanks to a power-play goal by captain Taylor Chorney to go ahead 1-0. They held the lead up until the third period when Luc Bourdon scored the game-tying goal with 7:41 left in regulation. And after a scoreless overtime, the game headed to a shootout.
Steve Downie went first for Team Canada but his shot was poke-checked away by Jeff Frazee. Kane was the first shooter for Team USA, and he almost beat Carey Price but the puck nicked his skate and hit the side of the net.
Bryan Little and Peter Mueller each scored in Round 2, and this is where the fun began.
Toews converted on his try to open Round 3 after firing a wrister low blocker side. Johnson needed to score to keep his team alive, and he did just that by matching Toews with a low blocker-side wrist shot.
International rules allow coaches to put any player on the ice for sudden death, even if they were already used. So Team Canada trotted out Little again in Round 4 but he was denied by Frazee.
All Kane needed to do was score and the game was over. At first, he thought he did. Turns out, the puck never crossed the line.
"I remember I had a chance to win it," Kane said. "I tried to go five-hole and it looked like the puck kind of squeaked behind the line and then Price moved his pads out, so you couldn't see the puck. And then I remember after the game, our video coaches and our coaching staff were trying to find any angle that showed that that puck was in. We all thought it was in and there was maybe a little bit of hope for a little but I don't think they could find the right angle."
The shootout continued with Toews, who converted on his second try to open Round 5. Mueller matched it, and then Team Canada turned back to Andrew Cogliano to start Round 6. He scored, putting Johnson in another situation where he had to score to keep Team USA in it. He did just that, beating Price with an almost identical shot as his first attempt.
"I laugh about it now, but it would've been nice if I had a chance to win it," Johnson said. "It was a lot of pressure to try to stay alive. I just felt like each time I scored to keep us alive, I felt like that was it, that was the break or the turning point we needed and we'd pull it off. And anytime Kaner went, I was pretty sure we were going to win."
For the third time, Team Canada called Toews' number. And, as he has so often in his career as we know now, Toews delivered again with a slick backhand, forehand move. A 3-for-3 performance on the biggest stage.
"That's just one of those moments, I think, people forget about if it doesn't go your way but obviously it was a big moment for myself," Toews said. "Definitely a confidence-builder to be able to believe in yourself in those big moments and knowing that when you're put in that situation again throughout your career that you can find ways to pull something out and make something happen."
Team USA needed a goal to extend the shootout but Mueller, who was 2-for-2 on his first two tries, was stopped by Price trying to go five-hole. Team Canada advanced with a 2-1 win and later beat Team Russia 4-2 in the gold medal game while Team USA came away with the bronze medal after beating Team Sweden 2-1.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking," Toews said. "Pretty good shooters on both sides. At the end of the day, the best team won though, you know? That's a good way to settle it if you think about it."
It's a game that went down as one of the most epic in the tournament's history, and even the players felt it almost immediately.
"We knew that it was kind of like an instant classic right after the game was over because of the shootout factor of it," Kane reflected.
Sixteen years later, the feeling remains the same.
"That sort of thing, all jokes aside, can go either way," Toews said. "That was pretty cool to think of that moment now and playing with a guy like Jack and knowing what kind of player he was and being a shooter in that position and trying to win a gold medal for your country. It was a good memory for us obviously being on the winning side."
Johnson said he hasn't talked to the others about the shootout since. The same can't be said for Kane and Toews, who didn't know each other too well at the time but had something to chat about when they reported to their first Blackhawks training camp together as rookies later in September.
"We talked about it a little bit," Kane said. "It was kind of like a little bit of a sore subject. I was never bringing that one up, but he might've a few times."
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