BERNE – Thoroughbreds versus Clydesdales. Lamborghinis versus Trabis. You can pick your favourite analogy, but the defending champs from Russia thoroughly outclassed Germany in a 5-0 win on Day One at PostFinance Arena.
Oleg Saprykin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Sergei Zinoviev, Anton Kuryanov, and Danis Zaripov scored for Russia, which fired 31 shots on goal. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made 20 saves en route to his first career IIHF World Championship shutout.
The Russians controlled the tempo and pace of the game. When they wanted the puck, they got it, and they did as they pleased. Their Group B opponents simply couldn't keep up.
"It was a great honor to play against the reigning champions in the first game," said German captain Andreas Renz. "Russia showed that they came to play. They weren't fooling around. They wanted to show that they are the champions. They're the team to beat in the tournament."
To the credit of the Russians, they didn't start running around and trying to inflate their personal statistics after building a three-goal lead in the opening period, either.
"It wasn't easy," said Saprykin. "Every team is tough. But we scored a couple of goals and kept going. That was the key for us. We wanted to just keep going, going, and going."
Russia opened the scoring at 8:14 when Alexander Radulov fed a lovely cross-crease pass to Saprykin, who put it in the open side.
At 9:37, Kovalchuk stretched the lead to 2-0 when he burst in off left wing on a breakaway, faked out German goalie Dimitri Pätzold multiple times, and zinged a low wrister home.
It was 3-0 for Russia at 15:25 after Oleg Tverdovsky sent the puck from the point toward the German net, where Zinoviev picked it up and deposited it past Patzold.
Although the second period was scoreless, the Russians continued to dominate play. They got Germany to take three penalties and rarely allowed their opponents quality scoring chances, even though the Germans outshot Russia 10-7 in the period.
At 2:53 of the third period, Kuryanov accepted a beautiful breakaway pass from Zaripov, raced in, and tucked a backhander between Pätzold's pads to make it 4-0.
Zaripov scored the fifth Russian goal with the man advantage, completing a sweet passing play from the edge of the crease with 8:08 remaining.
Bryzgalov made perhaps his best save of the night with under two minutes left, getting his left pad on an in-close attempt by Michael Hackert off the rush. When the final buzzer sounded, defenceman Vitali Proshkin scooped up the puck and handed it to his netminder.
Russia only dressed 18 skaters (10 forwards and eight defencemen), evidently anticipating reinforcements from the NHL playoffs. The German roster featured two NHLers: Buffalo's Jochen Hecht and Ottawa's Christoph Schubert.
"We don't know about NHLers yet, but we'll see," said Saprykin.
Announced attendance was 10,577. The crowd gave Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak a big cheer when he participated in the Player of the Game presentations. Zaripov was honoured for Russia, and Kai Hospelt for Germany.
The Russians face France on Sunday, while Germany takes on the host Swiss.
"For us, this was the first step in the tournament," said Renz. "We didn't expect to win the game, we just tried to give ourselves a chance. But our big games are the games against Switzerland and France, and we'll try to recover and refocus now."