While injured Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart would rather be playing instead of sitting at home nursing a broken sternum and watching his team on NESN, he didn’t mind channel-surfing back and forth between the Bruins-Senators and the USA-Canada gold-medal game at the World Junior Championships on Tuesday.
Stuart also didn’t mind that the USA team won for the first time since he captained the 2004 squad, earning a 6-5 overtime victory on Tuesday, ending Canada’s five-year reign as tournament champs.
“I was joking with some of the guys on our team here because we were texting back and forth after the game, when they must have been on the bus on the way to the airport," Stuart said. "I wrote that I had to go stand up in my living room and sing our National Anthem."
But Stuart wasn't completely joking. That moment brought back chills and treasured memories of lining up at center ice in Helsinki, Finland, five years ago and singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and watching Old Glory rise to the rafters.
“Obviously the medal ceremony and the National Anthem brought back so many great memories for me,” Stuart said. “That was probably the best part, standing with your team out on the ice with your medals and watching your flag go up, singing your anthem. There’s really nothing that’s compared to that yet in my career, and I was happy for those kids last night that they got to experience that. People always say that it’s a honor to play for your country and I think that moment there — when you're singing the anthem — that really solidifies that you just won that for your country and you played for so much more.”
When Stuart and the 2004 U.S. team beat Canada for the gold, they staged a two-goal comeback and then won the game on a fluke goal that would go down in infamy and haunt then-Canada goalie Marc-Andre Fleury until he won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins last spring. As Stuart watched Canada fight back from a late two-goal deficit on Tuesday, he thought that Canada was about to turn the tables on Team USA.
“It was kind of the reverse situation because we had to come back,” Stuart said. “So I was like, oh no, are they going to do the same thing we did to them? But no, this team stuck with it and it showed a lot of resilience. I was a little nervous at the end when they gave up that two-goal lead, but they stuck with it.”
Stuart was impressed with the calm the U.S. team displayed Tuesday night in Saskatoon, and he credited the players for not crumbling under pressure.
“There was no panic," Stuart said. "You could see in the interviews between the third [period] and overtime with their captain [Derek Stepan] — [there wasn't] any panic in his face, [he] seemed pretty even-keeled. It was good to see, and watching the interviews, they seem like a pretty tight-knit bunch.”
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