TORONTO -- There were moments in this World Cup of Hockey semifinal game when it looked like Russia was writing the right script to eliminate powerhouse Team Canada. Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was making highlight save after highlight save. Canada was outshooting Russia at a nearly 3-to-1 rate, yet the Russians were the ones getting timely goals.
But when the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby, is playing at the level he is right now, there is no beating Team Canada. No such script exists.
Crosby opened the scoring, assisted on two Brad Marchand goals and led Team Canada to a 5-3 win over Russia to advance to the World Cup finals. Canada will play the winner of Sunday's semifinal between Team Europe and Team Sweden.
This game was billed, as it always tends to be when they're sharing a sheet of ice, as Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin.
It was no contest.
While Crosby was a dominant player on both ends of the ice, Ovechkin was invisible. Ovechkin didn't get his first shot on goal until the third period, while Nikita Kucherov and Evgeny Kuznetsov did the scoring for the Russians.
Shea Weber's strong play against Ovechkin deserves notice, but the best way to shut down a great offensive player is to force him to defend -- and Canada did that exceedingly well against Ovechkin. It's hard to score goals when you're on the wrong side of the ice, and Canada spent long stretches in the offensive zone, keeping Ovechkin and the dangerous Russian forwards a safe distance from goalie Carey Price.
They were guilty of over-passing at times, but the line of Steven Stamkos, Ryan Getzlaf and John Tavares played a strong game, keeping Bobrovsky busy, and got rewarded in the third period with a goal that came on a Tavares wrister through traffic. It was the best game of the tournament for that line.
But it continues to be the trio of Crosby, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron that opposing teams can't answer.
Crosby has picked up right where he left off in the Stanley Cup playoffs, where he won the Conn Smythe, and is now two wins away from another championship.
He has to wait a day to find out the opposing team, but with the way he's playing, it might not matter.
1. Sidney Crosby, C, Canada: The golden goal on Ryan Miller during the 2010 Olympics will always be Crosby's signature moment for Canada, but he's turning in a signature tournament at the World Cup. This game was Crosby at his best on both sides of the ice, a captain willing his team to advance. He was great.
2. Brad Marchand, W, Canada: Marchand has absolutely capitalized on the opportunity to play with Crosby in this tournament, scoring two more goals in this game. He scored Canada's third goal of the game and it came just seconds after Bobrovsky made one of the prettiest glove saves of the tournament on a Marchand tip.
3. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Russia: Bobrovsky allowed five goals, but he was the only reason this game wasn't a blowout. He made 42 saves, many of the acrobatic variety. It just wasn't enough.