QUEBEC CITY – A three-goal first-period outburst set the tone as Russia took a 5-3 decision over Switzerland at the Colisee on Monday. Proudly wearing the “C,” Maxim Sushinsky scored twice to lead the way.
With the win to close out the Qualifying Round, unbeaten Russia will meet fourth-place Switzerland again in Wednesday’s quarter-finals, and the Czechs and Swedes, second and third respectively in Group E, will face each other that day. Unlike previous years, there is no cross-over between the two different Qualifying Round groups for the quarter-finals.
Alexander Ovechkin added a goal and an assist, and Dmitri Kalinin and Sergei Fedorov also scored for Russia. Raffaele Sannitz, Julien Vauclair, and Romano Lemm replied for the Swiss.
Russian starter Evgeni Nabokov posted 19 saves for his second straight win, while Jonas Hiller made 32 stops for Switzerland.
Although the Russians built up a 4-0 lead halfway through the game, they got sloppy in the second half, and it’s a concern that needs to be addressed by coach Slava Bykov heading into the elimination games.
“We started to work a little less hard after 4-0,” said Bykov. “The lesson for the team was that they have to respect the other team at all times.”
Early on, the Swiss tried to counter their opponents’ puck possession game by playing physically and clogging the neutral zone. But they took more than 10 minutes to register their first shot on goal, and it was clear Russia’s pressure would eventually pay dividends.
The Russians opened the scoring at 15:21 when Kalinin pinched in and converted a great Danis Zaripov pass from the right faceoff circle.
A couple of minutes later, it took just four seconds for Russia to capitalize with its second man advantage. Ilya Kovalchuk hammered a blueline one-timer that Ovechkin tipped under the crossbar. At first, the goal was credited as the first of the tournament for Kovalchuk, but no such luck for the 2004 Rocket Richard Trophy winner.
“It was a good play by Ovechkin,” said Kovalchuk. “If he hadn't tipped it, maybe the goalie could have stopped it.”
Then in a one-on-one confrontation, Sushinsky deked Swiss defenceman Beat Forster out of every piece of equipment you can name before roofing it stick side on Hiller for a 3-0 Russian lead at 18:45.
“The three-minute lapse in the first period was built on individual mistakes, where the Russians punish you so very quickly,” said Swiss coach Ralph Krueger.
Halfway through the second period, Fedorov made it 4-0, stepping into the right faceoff circle and wiring a wrister over Hiller’s glove. The Swiss goalie protested that Alexander Semin was in the crease, but to no avail.
Just 32 seconds into the third period, the Swiss went to work with the man advantage and spoiled Nabokov’s bid for a first-ever World Championship shutout. Raffaele Sannitz deflected Forster’s center point drive past the screened netminder.
At 45:30, the Russians got sloppy on the power play, enabling Julien Vauclair to lead a 2-on-1 break. Instead of trying to outwit Andrei Markov with a cross-ice pass, he simply snapped the puck over Nabokov’s glove to cut the deficit to 4-2.
But although the Swiss continued to grind it out, they just didn’t have the firepower to tie the game. During a power play, they pulled Hiller for an extra attacker, but Sushinsky intercepted the puck at the Swiss blueline and fired it into the gaping cage with 2:35 left.
Seconds after missing an empty net in front of the Russian crease, Romano Lemm got the puck again to Nabokov’s right, and this time he put it upstairs to round out the scoring at 5-3. The Swiss had one more chance with Fedorov off for cross-checking and Hiller pulled again in the dying seconds, but couldn’t keep the puck in the Russian zone.
“It was a good wakeup call for us,” said Kovalchuk. “We knew that it was a good team. They beat Sweden and Belarus, two great teams, so it's not going to be easy on Wednesday.”
For Switzerland, getting a World Championship point versus Russia is as rare and precious as a diamond-encrusted watch in a Zurich jewelry shop. The Swiss first beat Russia 4-2 in Basle in 1998, shocked them again by a 3-2 count in St. Petersburg in 2000, and managed a 3-3 tie in Vienna in 2005.
They’ll need a real gem of a performance to oust the Russians in the quarter-finals.
“We recovered in the second period, and the third period gives us a lot of courage to the game on Wednesday,” said Krueger. “Our players never did quit, and I think that showed what we need to do on Wednesday.”