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Team Canada players, including tournament MVP goaltender Carey Price, celebrate their gold-medal win over Russia. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press))

Twenty-two Canadian junior hockey players will return from Sweden with a gold medal after capturing a third world title in as many years on Friday.

Making its sixth consecutive appearance in the championship game, Canada rode three first-period goals to a 4-2 win over Russia in Leksand.

It's Canada's first world junior gold on the Olympic-size ice in Europe since it defeated the United States in 1997 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Jonathan Toews registered the winning goal, his second in two days after he broke the hearts of the Americans with three shootout markers in a 2-1 semifinal triumph on Wednesday.

"Tonight was a battle from start to finish," Toews told Canadian cable sports network TSN. "The Russians are a great team but we came out hard and finished hard, too."

Goaltender Carey Price, who played every minute of Canada's games, finished with 25 saves and was named the tournament's most valuable player.

"I can't believe it yet. It's surreal right now," he told TSN.

"I actually didn’t feel [as nervous] as I did during the shootout. When you play behind a [defence] like we have, it’s pretty easy to play. They just let me play my game."

Bryan Little and Andrew Cogliano also found the net in the opening 20 minutes as Canada scored three times in a span of two minutes, 27 seconds, before a crowd of 5,223 at Ejendals Arena.

Boston Bruins prospect Brad Marchand rounded out the scoring for the Canadians, who finished the 10-day tournament with a 6-0-0 record for the third consecutive year.

"It's hard to describe. It's unbelievable," Canadian coach Craig Hartsburg said. "I'm so proud of these kids. It's tough to come over here and win this thing.

"And they were a team right from the time we named the team, they were unbelievable and I'm so proud of every one of them."

Canadian defenceman Marc Staal also won gold in Vancouver last year but said this year's victory is a "totally different feeling."

"Winning in Europe is unbelievable," he said. "From the start [of the tournament] we just kept it simple. We clogged up the middle, teams got frustrated and turned it over."

Russia (5-1-0) lost in the final for the third straight year. They have earned five silver medals in the past 10 years.

Both sides had power-play opportunities that they couldn't convert in the third period. Russia pressed for a goal, but couldn't solve Price, while Canada withstood being two men down late in theperiod.

U.S. takes bronze medal

Earlier Friday, the U.S. edged Sweden 2-1 in the bronze-medal game.

Russia's Gennady Churilov scored with 36 seconds left in the second period to cut Canada's lead to 4-2.

It was the second power-play goal of the game forthe Russians, who entered thefinalwith the best efficiency rating with the man advantage in the tournament.

Pavel Valentenko made it 4-1 midway through the frame.

Marchand put Canada ahead 4-0 when he redirected a Toews passpast Russian goaltender Semen Varlamov.

Little and Toews recorded power-play goals 33 seconds apart late inthefirst period after Cogliano notched his first goal of the tournament at 15:35.

Varlamov and Price came up big early on.

A Washington Capitals draft pick, Varlamov was the busier of the two. He made four saves during a Canadian 5-on-4 advantage and later denied Steve Downie.

Russia, whichdoubled the Swedes 4-2 in the semifinals, began Friday's contest having allowedjust one even-strength goal in five games.

The 2008 world juniors will be held in Liberec and Pardubice, Czech Republic.

Tournament Awards

Most Valuable Player - Carey Price, G, Canada

All-star team

Goaltender: Carey Price, Canada

Defencemen: Erik Johnson, U.S.; Kristopher Letang, Canada

Forward: Alexei Cherepanov, Russia; Patrick Kane, U.S.; Jonathan Toews, Canada

IIHF Best Player Awards

Goaltender: Carey Price, Canada

Defenceman: Erik Johnson, U.S.

Forward: Alexei Cherepanov, Russia