COPENHAGEN — Canada will come home without a medal for the first time in four years after dropping a 4-1 decision to the United States in Sunday's bronze-medal game at the world hockey championship.
"Coming here, we expect gold and expect to compete for gold and when you don't, it's disappointing," said alternate captain Ryan O'Reilly, who was playing in his sixth world championship. He won two gold medals and a silver in the past three years. "We still wanted to beat the U.S. and prove we're the better team but we just didn't have the jump. We gave them a lot.
"Overall, it's a disappointing tournament. It feels like a waste of time. You want to come here and compete and have a chance to win and you don't."
Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored the lone goal for Canada late in the second period, while Curtis McElhinney made 33 saves.
Chris Kreider scored twice for the United States, while Nick Bonino had the eventual winner with O'Reilly serving an interference penalty with 6:39 to play in the third period. Anders Lee also added an empty-net goal with 2:45 remaining. Keith Kinkaid made 24 saves for the win in the U.S. net.
Canadian coach Bill Peters went back to McElhinney in net after Darcy Kuemper took the loss in Saturday's 3-2 semifinal defeat by Switzerland. Kuemper was also in net when Canada fell 5-4 to the United States in its tournament opener on May 4.
In his four preliminary-round appearances, McElhinney recorded three wins and a loss, with a 1.30 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
McElhinney kept his team in the game against an American team that generated the lion's share of the game's offence through 40 minutes, outshooting Canada 27-17.
Peters also switched up his skaters, dressing defenceman Thomas Chabot in place of Ryan Pulock, putting young speedsters Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier on a line with O'Reilly and moving Bo Horvat onto a new-look energy line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Turris.
"I thought the game was a little bit choppy," said Peters. "I thought the game was going to look a little bit different.
"I thought it was going to look like it did on our goal, with them going down, looking like it was gonna be 2-0 and then we counterattacked to make it 1-1. I thought there was going to be more 5-on-5 play up and down the ice, with two good, skilled teams playing."
Playing their third game in four days, both teams looked flat as they tried to rally to earn bronze after disappointing semifinal losses — a 3-2 defeat by the underdogs from Switzerland for Canada and a 6-0 shutout by Sweden for the U.S.
"I think both teams wanted to play today, but they wanted to play a later game," said Peters.
With the gold-medal game between the defending champions from neighbouring Sweden and surprising Switzerland set to be Sunday's main attraction, the mood was subdued in the stands at a sold-out Royal Arena.
The second period opened with three American power plays. Canada killed Connor McDavid's tripping penalty that carried over from the last two seconds of the first period, then a cross-checking call on Ryan Murray.
Kreider opened the scoring at the 6:40 mark of the second with Joel Edmundson in the box after a roughing infraction. Kreider pressured McDavid into a turnover deep in Canada's zone before deking a sprawling McElhinney.
Canada got on the board when Vlasic finished off a three-way passing play with Horvat and Turris with 1:54 left in the middle period.
"It was a great play by Turr coming into the zone," said Horvat. "I heard Vlasic yelling behind me, so I just wanted to get it to him. He made a great play to put it in."
A series of overlapping penalties midway through the third period offered opportunities for both sides, but the game remained tied until a diving Bonino knocked the puck past McElhinney for the goal that proved to be the game winner.
The U.S. team added two empty-net goals. Lee scored with 2:15 left in the third, then Kreider picked up his second of the game with 1:42 remaining.
Canadian team captain McDavid and his U.S. counterpart Patrick Kane both led their teams in scoring through the tournament. Kane's assist on Bonino's goal gave him 20 points in the tournament, a new U.S. record and the best individual performance since Canada's Dany Heatley had 20 points in 2008. McDavid finished with 17 points, three shy of the Canadian tournament record shared by Heatley and Steve Yzerman (1990). McDavid had one assist in the semifinal but also failed to get on the scoresheet on Sunday.
Carol Schram, The Canadian Press