COLOGNE Ė Russiaís NHL stars scored all the goals in a 4-1 victory over Kazakhstan on Tuesday as the two-time defending gold medallist secured a berth in the qualification round of the pressure-packed World Championship tournament.
Scoring for Russia were Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals, Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils and Denis Grebeshkov of the Nashville Predators.
This foursome didnít hesitate for a nanosecond when the invitation came to help their country win a third straight world crown, and it paid dividends against the Kazakhs.
Ovechkin is enjoying being reunited Sergei Fedorov, who was his teammate in Washington and also at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.
"Alex (Semin) and I played with him in Washington and he is like a father to us," a relaxed sounding Ovechkin said after the game.
Goaltender Alexander Eremenko, who plays in Russiaís Kontinental Hockey League, had a busy first period but wasnít tested much over the final two periods of play.
Russia has won its first two preliminary round games and now has six points.
The recently promoted Kazakhs are winless in two games and they play Slovakia on Thursday in a game that could determine who moves to the qualification round and who heads off to the relegation round.
On paper, Kazakhstan was way out of its league.
Kazakhstan holds the 19th spot in the International Ice Hockey Federationís World Ranking, while Russia is second behind Canada.
"I don't think they gave it 100 per cent," said Alexander Koreshkov. "And we do not have our full team here. (Nik) Antropov is out with an injury and we are missing three other guys with an injury."
The Kazakhs, however, had the better scoring chances in the first period before Ovechkin put Russia on the scoreboard.
Kazakhs forward Evgeni Bumagin made a great deke to sneak past a defender early in the opening period and Eremenko did the splits to make the save on a backhand shot. Then about a minute later, the Kazakhs crashed the Russian net and the Russian goaltender was quick to smother a rebound.
The Kazakhs were killing a penalty when Ovechkin ripped a low wrist shot that sailed past goaltender Vitali Yeremeyev at the 10:20 mark of the first period. Yeremeyev isnít the first goalie to have the Russian face of the National Hockey League snap a quick wrist shot past him and he wonít be the last, either.
The Kazakhs didnít roll over and shortly after the ensuing facoff, they almost tied it when Ilya Solarevís wrist shot rang off the right post.
Kovalchuk and Semin paired up to increase Russiaís lead to 2-0 just 42 seconds into the second period. Semin was one step inside the Russian blueline and he sent a crisp pass up the middle of the ice, sending Kovalchuk on a breakaway and the Russian superstar scored on a wrist shot high to the stick side.
Semin found the scoring touch he lacked for the Capitals in the NHLís Stanley Cup playoffs late in the second period. He was at the top of the faceoff circle to the right of the Kazakh net when he wheeled around to his forehand and sent a 15-foot wrist shot past Yeremeyev for a 3-0 at 17:55.
By the time Grebeshkov scored from close in at 3:22 of the third period, the Russians had the game well in hand.
Eremenko lost his shutout bid with 2:01 left in the game when Dmitri Dudarev scored on a power play.
"There have been many surprises in the tournament and you have to play hard every game," said Russian forward Nikolai Kulemin, who plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs.