If the best defence is a strong offence, then the Russian squad is doing just fine.
Another offensive outburst resulted in a 4-1 win over Latvia, extending Russia’s winning streak to five games. They have now outscored opponents in Minsk Arena 26-6.
While the Russians wait for Yevgeni Malkin to arrive in time to take part in the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships, they continue to click offensively, led by Viktor Tikhonov and Alexander Ovechkin.
Russia once again proved that they are favourites to go further in the tournament. Despite being down a goal early in the first period, they were able to rely on their top players for production.
Latvia could not overcome the sheer force of the Russian attack that included three different goal scorers and 39 shots on goal. Latvia's record drops to 3-2 with nine points in Group B behind Russia.
Latvia scored first to take the lead on a Miks Indrasis one-timer. As Juris Stals skated with the puck near the right corner of the Russian net, Indrasis, who was left alone between the faceoff circles, tapped his stick on the ice in calling for the puck. Stals fed Indrasis for the shot. It was the second goal of the tournament for the 23-year-old Dinamo Riga forward.
"We looked good in the first shift and created a few good chances, but then there were some turnovers and we immediately got punished. It was a test of character," Tikhonov remarked about the goal.
On the other side, Tikhonov continued his torrid scoring pace by having a hand in all three of his team's first period goals. He opened and closed goal scoring for Russia while assisting on the second.
Tikhonov has a four game scoring streak that now includes 6 goals and 12 points in that span, making him the leading scorer in this tournament. While no doubt talented, the young center has been sublime throughout.
"First and foremost, this is a team game and one player can't do anything by himself," Tikhonov said after the game. "It all depends on your partners and the most important thing is that we won."
Tikhonov knotted the score with a wrist shot that went low through the defenceman in front and past netminder Kristers Gudlevskis.
Yevgeni Medvedev’s shot rebounded off the plexiglass near the crease where Sergei Shirokov banged it home. Then almost three minutes later Tikhonov made it 3-1.
Tikhonov's second goal came on the power play when Rodrigo Lavins was called for hooking. Sergei Plotnikov sent a pass along to Tikhonov who shot a bolt into the net. Ovechkin notched an assist on the play, extending his points streak to five.
Recently added forward Sergei Kalinin got on the board in the second when he took a rebound and switched from backhand to forehand that put the game further out of reach for the Latvians. Kalinin made his debut against Finland in his team’s second tournament game.
Perhaps out of frustration, Zemgus Girgensons, after a faceoff in the Russian zone, speared Alexander Burmistrov between the legs earning him a five-minute penalty, game misconduct penalty and ejection from the game.
Latvia killed off the penalty but lost one of their key players. The sustained attacks were more than the Latvians could cope with while trying to mount any sort of counter attack. Four shots in the second period at 11 in total at that point demonstrated what little success Latvia was having on the afternoon.
Malkin joins in time to add to a loaded lineup. With his Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated by the New York Rangers in the NHL playoffs, Malkin will arrive no doubt motivated to contribute to what’s already a fairly dominant, high-octane offence.
"(Malkin's coming to the World Championship) has really energized us," said Tikhonov. "Wherever you put him, he will make the team stronger. We hope he joins us soon."