BRATISLAVA – The KHL trio of Sergei Zinoviev, Danis Zaripov, and captain Alexei Morozov keyed Russia to a 4-3 win over Denmark to open Qualification Round play Thursday night.
Russia – Denmark 4-3 (1-2, 2-0, 1-1) Game Sheet Photos
Zinoviev led the way with a hat trick and Zaripov assisted on all three goals. The two were teammates with Ak Bars Kazan for six seasons, up until 2008-09. Their national team linemate, Morozov, added a couple of helpers.
Yevgeni Artyukhin scored the eventual winner early in the third period.
"We were a little nervous, and the Danes focused on a good transition game," said Russian coach Vyacheslav Bykov. "Overall, I'm happy with the result."
"The Danes played hard, and we got a couple of bad penalties," said Russia's Nikolai Kulyomin. "We had a lot of scoring chances and could have scored more than four goals."
For Denmark, Nichlas Hardt tallied twice and Mikkel Bødker had the other goal.
“It was great to have all the Slovak fans cheering for us," said Danish defenceman Philip Hersby. "We played last night but we had a lot of energy today anyway."
Russia now has six points in Group E. The Danes remain at zero, with their chances of advancing to the quarter-finals marginal at best.
Danish captain Morten Green sat out this game with a shoulder injury, but is expected to be ready for Saturday’s game against unbeaten Germany. Defenceman Daniel Nielsen wore the C in Green’s absence. The Russians don’t play again until Sunday, when they’ll face the group-leading Czechs.
In the first half of the game, the Russians gave a disjointed effort, and didn’t always look as if they were taking the Danes seriously enough. But they would come around, outshooting their opponents 40-22.
Zinoviev opened the scoring near the midway point of the first period, cashing a rebound into an empty net after Danish goalie Frederik Andersen stretched to stop Ilya Nikulin’s deke.
The Danes had a quick reply. At 11:12, Denmark’s Kirill Starkov rushed in with the Russian defence backing up and fired a shot that tipped off Hardt’s skate past starting goalie Yevgeni Nabokov at 11:12.
Starkov is an interesting story. He was born in the USSR (Sverdlovsk, known today as Yekaterinburg) and his father Oleg played in U18 and U20 tournaments for the Soviets, as well as for CSKA Moscow and Avtomobilist Sverdlovsk. Oleg moved to Denmark to suit up for Esbjerg when Kirill was four, and Kirill has Danish citizenship.
With just 15 seconds left in the opening period Denmark grabbed a 2-1 lead on the power play. The Russian defence allowed Mikkel Bødker to cut across the front of the net and he shoveled the puck past Nabokov’s stick.
Zinoviev tied it up at 2-2 at 10:08 when he rushed to the net and gracefully redirected a centering pass from Russian captain Alexei Morozov.
Zinoviev completed his hat trick when he picked up a puck above the crease off an abortive Danis Zaripov rush and fired it over Andersen’s right shoulder.
At 5:21 of the third, Artyukhin parlayed the Canadian power-forward style he’s shown all tournament long into his second goal of 2011, bulling his way to the top of the crease and backhanding home the rebound from a Konstantin Korneyev tip.
"Number 49 [Artyukhin], he’s pretty heavy in front of the goal," said Hersby.
The Danes refused to fold, cutting the deficit to 4-3 just over two minutes later on another nice play engineered by Starkov, who deked past a defender before centering the puck to Hardt, who put it into the open side. Nabokov appeared to have strained himself on the play. He remained in the game briefly before checking out in favour of Konstantin Barulin.
Denmark pulled Andersen for a sixth attacker with a whopping 2:39 left in the game. Despite some good puck movement and zone pressure, they fell short of the equalizer.
"We have to work on our team play, but I think we're getting better all the time, every game," said Russian World Championship rookie Vladimir Tarasenko.
The Orange Arena crowd was loaded with Slovak fans who chanted “Denmark!” when they weren’t singing “Slovensko!” Many had anticipated that Slovakia would come second to Russia in Group A and had purchased their tickets accordingly.
Russia has won all six of its IIHF World Championship games against Denmark, dating back to April 27, 2003. This was, however, the first time the Danes have scored more than two goals against the Russians.