P.K. Subban stated the obvious.
"How big has John Tavares been this whole tournament?" said Subban, in the wake of a memorable performance by Tavares in a 7-4 come-from-behind win over the United States at the world junior hockey championship on Wednesday in Ottawa.
"He just dominates. It is as simple as that."
The Americans capitalized early on the Canadian emotions running amok, coupled with a few pee-wee house league mistakes, to open a three-goal lead midway through the first period.
Tavares took advantage of a television timeout to tell his teammates to relax. He then went out, picked the Canadians off the floor by scoring two goals in a span of 48 seconds, and lifted Canada into the semifinals.
His third goal of the game was for the highlight reels.
The Canadians were nursing a 5-4 lead and the U.S. goalie was on the bench when Tavares picked up the puck at the U.S. blue-line, held off a defender with his left arm, and carried the puck to the crease to score a one-handed goal and ice the win.
Listen to Tavares and you get the feeling it was just another ho-hum day at the office.
"It was right up there," said Tavares, about where this game ranked on his list of greatest games ever.
For what it's worth, his third goal was the 12th for Tavares in a national junior team jersey, tying him with Eric Lindros for the most career goals.
How about his performance? Was this the best ever?
"It was great to contribute tonight," he said.
"He picked us up and put us on his back," said captain Thomas Hickey.
Not the best technical game
Suffice it to say it wasn't a textbook effort by the emotionally charged Canadians.
The Canadians started like hell on fire, running around hitting anything and everything in a U.S. sweater. The result was they got caught out of position, allowing the U.S. shooters clear lanes to the net that did no favours for goalie Dustin Tokarski.
The three goals took the partisan crowd of 20,203, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, out of the game, but coach Pat Quinn never thought about pulling his goalie to give his team a lift.
"I didn't want to ask them for more emotion. I wanted more control," Quinn said. "Our goal right now is to learn some lessons from that game."
Stefan Della Rovere is a case in point about someone letting his emotions get the better of him. He was given a misconduct late in the first period, basically for chirping/trash talking, after the play.
When he finished serving his time, he returned to the bench and never saw the ice again.
"My emotions ran high and I went overboard," he said. "It is a new year and my resolution is not to take dumb penalties."
Lots to like out there
The highly anticipated game had something for everyone.
This was perhaps the most memorable rally by a Canadian junior team ever.
Shoddy goaltending was later made a moot point when Tokarski made a pair of brilliant saves at the end of the second and third periods to help Canada to the win.
There was a fair number of hard hits, a few dirty hits from behind, and the occasional face wash in a scrum.
Canada's power play was effective, scoring four goals.
"It saved our bacon," said Quinn.
There was an incident in the first period when Chris di Domenico was making his way back to the Canadian bench after a goal by the home side when an American player stuck his stick out from his bench and caught the Canuck in the chops.
No penalty but the incident did nothing to cool things down.
Overall, the officiating by Russian Vyacheslav Bulanov and Tom Laaksonen of Finland was questionable. U.S. coach Ron Rolston called it severely inadequate and he wasn't far off the mark.
Jordan Eberle, Zach Boychuk (who left the game with an injury), Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis also scored for the four-time defending world junior champions.
U.S. gets Slovakia
Canada now plays the winner of Friday's quarter-final between Russia and the Czech Republic.
The United States is up against Slovakia in the quarter-finals, and the winner goes up against Sweden on Saturday.
Sweden went undefeated in Pool B to earn a semifinal bye with a 5-0 win over Russia (3-1). The Russians meet the Czech Republic (2-2) in Friday's other quarter-final.
The Czechs thumped Kazakhstan 10-2 to finish third in Pool A. The Slovaks beat Finland 3-2 in a shootout to secure a berth in the medal round.