The decisive goal came with six minutes left to play. Patrick Kane’s slapshot took a deflection on its way to McIlhenney’s pads and bounced away kindly for Nick Bonino to spring into action and push the puck into an empty net. That put the Americans 2-1 up and on the way to securing hardware for the first time since 2015’s bronze-medal campaign in the Czech Republic.
Kane's focus was very much on the team's achievement, though. "When you look at the tournament overall and you can say you beat Canada twice and came home with a bronze medal, you probably think you’d do a little bit better than that," he said. "But you know, it was a tough loss for us yesterday. It was very important for us to come back.
"I thought the coaches did a great job of regrouping us and getting us ready for this game and showing us how important it was not to come out today and lay an egg. It was important for us to play hard and try to come home with something in this tournament."
For goalie Keith Kincaid, the win was especially significant following the sudden death of USA Hockey stalwart Jim Johannson in January.
Bronze-medal games can sometimes feel like a chore for two teams still coming to terms with the abrupt crash of their championship dreams. That emotion is often intensified when the play-off pits opponents which harboured genuine hopes of winning it all and the opening period here was an illustration of precisely that.
It wasn’t that it was a poor game, exactly, but the early exchanges stubbornly refused to ignite in the manner we’ve come to expect from USA-Canada clashes of yore. The Americans made the brighter start and bossed the game for the first 10 minutes. Then a penalty on Connor Murphy brought Canada to the table – albeit only after a Dylan Larkin intercept in centre ice created a short-handed rush that drew a good save from Curtis McElhinney. Ironically, Kincaid’s most eye-catching moment of the first frame also came with his team on the power play. Bo Horvat was bearing down on the net but Kincaid rushed from his crease to hack the puck to safety.
Murphy acknowledged that Canada seemed deflated after losing to Switzerland last night. "It didn’t seem like they had a lot of energy," he said. "They had a late game last night. So we were able to keep some good pressure and get a lot of power plays. That seemed to control some of their high-end guys from getting too many chances. So that was important, and it was a timely power play at the end that we were able to get the win off."
Canada's Ryan O'Reilly also admitted that it was hard to prepare for this game: "It’s a weird situation. Obviously, we come in here and we expect gold. We expect to compete for gold. When you don’t, it’s disappointing. Trying to get up for the game, we still wanted to beat the U.S. and prove we’re a better team. But we just didn’t have the jump. You could tell, we just seemed heavy."
The opening goal took time to arrive but the USA finally turned its supremacy into a goal in the 27th minute. But while Chris Kreider’s finish – calmly dragging the puck around McElhinney’s outstretched leg – was composed, there was a kindly bounce on the play as Dylan Larkin’s feed into the Canadian zone got tangled up in Connor McDavid’s skates present Kreider with the chance for his third of the tournament.
Nick Bonino then got a great pass from Johnny Gaudreau and wriggled in front of Josh Bailey as he bore down on McElhinney’s net. This time, though, there was no space to squeeze the puck past the Canadian goalie. Canada was still struggling to create clear openings, but Matt Barzal almost fashioned one when he moved along the goal line to shoot from the doorstep. Kinkaid made a fumbling save but recovered to deny Ryan O’Reilly a sniff of the rebound.
The game threatened to change course late in the second period. The Americans carved out a glorious chance to go 2-0 up when Bonino slid the puck across the face of the net for Nick Jensen at the back door, but the defenceman’s shot found the side netting and bounced to safety. Canada came straight back up the ice and swiftly punished that miss.
But the third period saw the USA take control in the closing stages and leave Denmark with the bronze medals. Canada, for the first time since 2014, goes away from a World Championship with no hardware.
For Canadian captain McDavid, whose previous World Championship campaign peaked with him grabbing the opening goal in the gold-medal game in Moscow, missing out was tough: "It's disappointing. It's not the result we wanted. We spent the better part of a month together and came together. To not win is disappointing.
"I thought we did a good job at the start of getting into the game, but ultimately it came down to power plays and they scored a late one."