Russia cruises to victory

Tikhonov's two goals pace attack

12.05.2014
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Minsk Arena Minsk  Belarus

Alexander Ovechkin scored the game-winner on a penalty shot. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

If this was a statement game by the Russians of their intentions to compete for gold in this tournament, the message was received. In a dominating performance, Russia defeated USA 6-1.

The Americans lost by the widest margin against Russia at the World Championships since 1991 when they lost to the USSR 12-2.

Russia also made amends for their 8-3 loss to the Americans in Helsinki at last year's World Championship.

Alexander Ovechkin’s first period penalty-shot game-winning goal powered Russia en route to their third win in as many games in the tournament.

USA skated out to a chorus of boos in what was decidedly a pro-Russia crowd. If anything has been as signature here at Minsk Arena it's the capacity crowd favouring Belarus or Russia when they play.

Between the spectators and the Russian puck pursuit, the American found themselves on the defence early on. Russia enjoyed many key chances that kept Tim Thomas and the defence working.

"We played very aggressive hockey, and scored another early goal even though we've not had much chance to rest," said Russian head coach Oleg Znarok. "A win's and win and I'm happy for the guys."

Sergei Kalinin had two good opportunities to score off passes from Danis Zaripov. On both occasions, Thomas made the stop.

Russia made it 1-0 when Nikolai Kulyomin scored off a rebound of a Yevgeni Medvedev shot. Just after Jacob Trouba’s tripping penalty had ended, Artyom Anisimov sent a backhand pass to Medvedev whose initial shot was stopped by Thomas but Kulyomin sent in the rebound.

USA head coach Peter Laviolette called a timeout at 13:54 to try and settle team his team down.

There were a few good chances by the Americans but the majority of the action came from the Russians who were first to many loose pucks, aggressive on their forecheck and generally playing at a high, up-tempo pace.

With time winding down in the first period, Russia would add to their lead. With 1:13 remaining, defenceman Danny DeKeyser was called for hooking Ovechkin down from behind when he was on a break. A penalty shot was called.

When the whistle sounded, Ovechkin went wide and closed in on Thomas, sending a backhand over the American netminder.

"Moments like these, it's always a fifty-fifty chance," said Ovechkin of the shot. "I saw him skate out far and the ice was in my favour, the puck didn't jump over my stick when I switched to the backhand."

In the second period, Russia turned things up even more. With four goals in the period, they put the game away and chased Thomas from the net.

20 seconds in, Viktor Tikhonov took a lead pass from Ovechkin to make it 3-1.

Team USA would answer back shortly after when Justin Abdelkader tipped a Jeff Petry pass in the net past Andrei Vasilevski, who was making his first World Championship tournament start. The goal came at 19:03.

At the halfway point of the middle period, Yuri Kuznetsov and Sergei Plotnikov scored exactly two minutes apart to make it a four goal lead. After Plotnikov’s goal, David Leggio relieved Thomas.

The lead was extended when Tim Stapleton fell down while attempting a pass near the Russian blueline. This gave the Russians a 3-on-0 heading into the American zone. Tikhonov, who opened the period with a goal, closed it with another.

Team USA outshot Russia 17-7 but were outscored 4-1.

With no scoring in the third, the game ended 6-1. The Russian juggernaut continues on while the Americans need to regroup and focus next on Switzerland.

"Russia's a good team, they've been together for a while and these are their best players," said Stapleton. "You've got to give them credit, but I think we're a good team too. It's a learning process for us and there are lots of games left. Our whole goal is to get better and we have to get better from this."

Andrei Vasilevski's debut in goal was a successful one, although he admitted to having some nerves to start.

"Of course, I was very nervous. This isn't a (youth tournament) when you just go out there to shoot the puck around. But, as my goalie coach in Salavat Yulayev says, if you are not nervous, it's time to quit hockey. My teammates scored six goals, so it made this much easier on me."

JOHN SANFUL

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