HELSINKI – The U.S. had never scored more than five goals against the Russians in either the World Championships or the Olympics. The record is now eight, after an impressive 8-3 win in the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship quarter-final.
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That's more than Russia (or the Soviet Union) had ever allowed in a World Championship game before today's game.
Craig Smith had five assists, while team captain Paul Stastny scored two and added two assists, and John Gibson made 31 saves for the Americans. The 19-year-old, who led the U.S. to World Junior gold in January, came to Helsinki with only one professional game (for the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals) under his belt.
Alexander Ovechkin, who arrived yesterday, scored one and added an assist for Russia. He was selected as best player for his team.
"The team that was more disciplined and better organized won today. We have very good players, but you have to remember that hockey is a team game," Russia's coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said.
"We are where we wanted to be coming into this tournament," said the USA's Stephen Gionta. "We took care of what we had to to, and we got some bounces our way, which is always nice."
"I thought we played a pretty solid team game today," Gionta continued. "We tried to clog up everything, take away their speed, and keep the puck in their end. I think our game plan worked."
In the first game between these teams Russia scored the important first goal of the game. But this time it was the Americans who struck first halfway through the first period.
They cycled the puck in the Russian corner, and Craig Smith shook off a Russian defenceman, spun around and sent a backhander out front. Ilya Nikulin had missed Paul Stastny driving to the net, and Smith’s pass landed right on Stastny’s stick. He slammed it in at 11:53 to give the USA a lead in the game.
Bilyaletdinov looked even more worried when T.J. Oshie beat Ilya Bryzgalov with a wrister from the right faceoff dot exactly 40 seconds later. Tim Stapleton sent a nice pass to an empty space, and Oshie picked it up and fired a shot that went under Bryzgalov’s arm and into the net.
But Russia made it a one-goal game less than three minutes later, when Sergei Soin won a puck battle in the neutral zone, carried the the puck to the Russian zone, and spun around and sent a pass through the slot. Alexander Svitov onetimed it in at the far post, with four and a half minutes remaining in the period.
The Russians had the game’s first power play at the end of the first period, and to start the second, but they couldn’t capitalize on it.
Russia put the U.S. on their heels early in the second period, but right in the middle of another Russian attack, they turned the puck over at the American blue line. Ryan Carter picked it up, and drove down the right lane, and then found Nate Thompson driving to the net. Thompson one-timed Carter’s saucer pass through Bryzgalov’s five-hole, and the puck hit the post and crossed the goal line at 5:45 into the period, giving the U.S. a two-goal cushion again.
It was Thompson’s first goal in the tournament - and Ryan Carter’s first point - and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Americans.
Another Russian turnover, this time in their own zone, turned out to be costly. Yevgeni Kuznetsov was trying to move the puck forward one-handed, but Paul Stastny intercepted his pass, and moved the puck quickly to Craig Smith on the right faceoff dot. Alex Galchenyuk drove to the net, and as Smith’s saucer pass landed on his stick, he deked Bryzgalov, putting the puck in and giving Team USA a 4-1 lead with 2:29 remaining in the second period.
After the following shift, coach Bilyaletdinov made a goalie change, inserting backup Semyon Varlamov.
Alexander Ovechkin flew into Helsinki last night, and early in the third, he showed he wanted to go to Stockholm as well. He went around Stephen Gionta and took a shot from the outside, but his hard wrist shot beat Gibson on the short side. The video review showed that the puck hit the back of the net and came out of the net as quickly as it had entered it, cutting the deficit to two goals just 1:33 into the third period.
But it wouldn't turn things around for Russia.
On the next shift, Gionta received a roughing minor, and the Russian power play got to work. Alexander Radulov had the puck on the blue line, and fanned on it, sending Carter and Thompson on a 2-on-1 attack. This time Carter took the shot himself, and beat Varlamov with a shot through the five-hole, at 2:55.
At 3:40 of the third, the Russian power play clicked. Ovechkin, standng at the half-boards, sent the puck to Popov, who found Alexander Perezhogin in the slot, and he beat Gibson with a wrist shot from up close.
With 11:49 remaining in the game, Jacob Trouba made it 6-3 with a good shot from the point through traffic.
But the Americans had more in their bag of tricks tonight. David Moss sent a wrist shot from the high slot, and beat Varlamov through the five-hole, at 9:56. Just 11 seconds later, Stastny completed the rout with a wrist shot from the door step, assisted by Craig Smith with another beautiful no-look pass.
The goal was Stastny’s 13th point in the tournament, temporarily putting him into a tie with Kovalchuk for the overall points lead.
Team USA moves on to the semi-final, and takes on the winner of the Switzerland-Czech Republic game.
"It's where we wanted to be coming into this tournament. We took care of what we had to to today, and we got some bounces our way, which is always nice," said Gionta.