Mark Messier's first major coaching stint has ended with a silver medal at the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland.
Former NHL players Alexei Yashin and Maxim Afinogenov scored second-period goals to lead SKA St. Petersburg past Messier's Canadians 4-3 in the tournament final Friday.
Yashin, on the power play, and Afinogenov scored to give SKA St. Petersburg a 3-1 lead after Micki Dupont pulled the Canadians into a 1-1 tie. But twice in the third Canada rallied to make it a one-goal game, although Josh Holden scored to make it 4-3 came with just two seconds remaining in regulation time.
"You could look at it as we ran out of time or could say we could've used a little more time," Messier said. "Playing five games in 4 ½ days with a quick turnaround … you never want to make excuses but the reality is the schedule certainly didn't help us."
Messier came into the tournament with just four games of elite-level coaching under his belt — all accumulated with Canadian teams that went a combined 2-2 at the Swiss Challenge and Deutschland Cup last month.
He was impressed with how his team handled the gruelling Spengler schedule.
"The heads were willing but the body betrays you under those circumstances," Messier said.
After beating host HC Davos 4-0 in the semifinals Thursday night, Canada was back on the ice against the Russian team at noon local time.
"We picked our spots to be aggressive, we did that well and we were patient when we couldn't be and tried to turn pucks over in the neutral zone, which we did," said Messier. "We had our opportunities and I think under different circumstances the outcome is different."
Every team was given a day off during the preliminary round, but Canada's came on the opening day of the event. That meant the squad then had to play all its games in consecutive days.
SKA St. Petersburg's win marks the third straight year a Russian team has captured the title. Canada was making its ninth championship appearance in 11 years and its 12th overall but first since 2007.
The turning point in the game came in the second when Yashin and Afinogenov gave SKA St. Petersburg a two-goal lead after the Canadians had tied it. Yashin's goal came on a two-man power play with Blaine Down and Mark Popovic in the penalty box, a call Messier said came at a pivotal time in the contest.
"I haven't seen the replay but that was a tough part of the game," Messier said. "In a championship game you hate to see those kinds of calls."
Canada's Brett McLean cut the Russian squad's lead to 3-2 with a power-play goal at 18:38 of the third. But captain Maxim Sushinskiy scored his second of the game into the empty net at 18:57 to restore SKA St. Petersburg's two-goal advantage before Holden rounded out the scoring.
Canada's Jeff Deslauriers captured the tournament's top goalie award while Travis Roche was named one of its best defencemen.
SKA St. Petersburg finished the tournament undefeated, winning all four of its games although it had to rally from a 3-0 deficit to beat Geneve-Servette 4-3 in the semifinals Thursday. Canada suffered its only loss to Davos during the preliminary round earlier in the week.
The Spengler Cup, which debuted in 1923, is the world's oldest pro hockey tournament.