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Russian machine well-oiled

Two Ilyas, Kovalchuk and Bryzgalov, lead team to win over Latvia

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Russia had many reasons to celebrate in their game against Latvia. Photo: Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Images

HELSINKI – Russia put on a pleasant show in its first game in the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, a show that included fancy stickwork, solid goaltending, and lots of goals, as it beat Latvia 6-0.

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"I think we played very good overall hockey, starting with our goaltender and ending with our forwards. It feels good when you don’t give up any goals and score six. Bryzgalov played pretty well and made some big saves," said defenceman Fyodor Tyutin.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored one and added an assist, Yevgeni Biryukov collected two assists, and Ilya Bryzgalov made 13 saves for Russia en route to a shutout.

"Russia has a good team, and there’s a reason why they’ve won a few World Championships lately. We had a good first period. But we made some dumb mistakes and that’s why they scored. It’s hard to come back," Arturs Kulda said of Latvia's game.

Some of Russia's NHLers, including goaltender Bryzgalov, are still suffering from jetlag, which makes his performance impressive.

"In the last 48 hours, I’ve only slept seven hours. I want to go to sleep right now," Bryzgalov said.

It has been ten years since Latvia last beat Russia in a World Championship - last year, Russia beat Latvia 5-2 - and the streak goes on. The famous Russian machine was firing in all cylinders, with six different players scoring goals, three of the defensemen.

It was a defenceman who opened the scoring at 13:03. Russia played the puck to the blueline, and Yevgeni Biryukov’s slap shot from the point beat Maris Jucers in Latvia’s goal, giving Russia the lead in the game.

"Our start wasn't the way we wanted to, the puck bounced a little. We have practiced in the practice arena, which has a smaller rink so it took a little getting used to," said Ilya Kovalchuk.

Russia began the second period on a power play, but couldn’t capitalize on its chance. Just as Latvia’s Gints Meja returned to ice, Russia’s Alexei Tereshenko took a high-sticking minor, opening the door for Latvia. But the door closed a minute and 58 seconds later when Armands Berzins received a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind when he shoved Sergei Soin head-first into the boards.

While killing off Berzins’s major, Meja took a hooking minor, and Russia got to play two minutes with a two-man advantage, and while they created some chances, Jucers and Latvian defense kept the puck out of the net.

And then, with Latvia playing on full strength again, Yevgeni Medvedev’s wrist shot from the blueline got redirected off a Latvian player’s skate and found its way to the back of the net, giving Russia a two-goal cushion.

"The second goal kind of broke us down, after the 5-on-3 when we stood our ground and didn’t let them score. But then they got the momentum and it broke the game for us. They felt like they could hold on to the puck more and play more easily," Latvia's Janis Sprukts said.

Halfway through the game, Ilya Bryzgalov had faced just six Latvian shots.

"In the second period there were not many shots, but it is what it is. The guys did a great job in front of me. There were no rebounds or anything. It was a good game for the entire team," he said.

At 12:59 into the second period, Ilya Kovalchuk and Biryukov cycled the puck quickly to Alexander Radulov who fooled the Latvian defenseman with a spin-o-rama, then buried a backhand shot top-shelf to make it 3-0.

With 65 seconds remaining in the second period it was time for another defenseman to score as Yevgeni Ryasenski scored his first of the tournament, after Alexander Perezhogin first deked a Latvian defenseman and then found Ryasenski following the rush. He beat Juzers with a wristshot from the slot, for 4-0.

Latvia made a goalie change, but Edgars Masalskis got a poor start, a real cold shower, as Kovalchuk buried the first shot of the period, a hard wrist shot that beat Masalskis high on the glove side just 17 seconds into the period and gave Russia a five-goal lead.

Maris Jass received a hooking minor at 3:50, and it took the Russian power play unit just 21 seconds to beat Masalskis. Kirill Petrov played the puck across the slot area to Medvedev, whose shot hit Alexei Tereshenko’s skate and was redirected back to Petrov who had an easy task to lift the puck into the net, and make it 6-0.

"We just need to forget this game and focus on the next opponent," said Sprukts.

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