BRATISLAVA Ė The game was tied 4-4 with 3:41 remaining, and while beating Slovenia may not seem like a huge feat, Alexander Radulov is surely a Russian hero today, thanks to his game winning 5-4 goal.
Russia - Slovenia 6-4 (1-0, 1-1, 4-3) Game Sheet Photos
Alexander Radulov and Maxim Afinogenov have two-point nights, Yevgeni Nabokov makes 31 saves for Russia.
"I think there are a lot of aspects of our game we need to improve, especially discipline and defensive play. We gave up two 5-on-3s. We can do better than that. Yevgeni Nabokov had to make some good saves to keep us in the game. It was a crucial time in the game," said Afinogenov.
"I think itís one of the best games in our history. Russiaís the best team in the world. We prepared well for them. We just said we had to work as hard as we did against the Slovaks, and I think we did a great job," said Slovenia's two-goal scorer Bostjan Golicic.
If the first game against Germany taught Russia anything, it was probably that there are no easy games in the World Championship anymore. And they got off to a good start, pushing Slovenia to their heels right from the get-go, and when Sloveniaís goaltender Andrej Hocevar got an interference penalty at 2:44, Russia got their chance.
Ilya Kovalchuk quarterbacked the powerplay from the point, and sent a saucer to Vitali Atyushov on the blueline. Atyushov's a slapshot that beat Hocevar high on his blocker side at 4:22. Radulov collected an assist.
And then things got a little chaotic. First Marcel Rodman collided with Alexei Tereshenko in the neutral zone. Rodman got a tripping penalty, and Tereshenko was helped off the ice. He's out of the tournament with a ruptured ligament of the right knee.
A few minutes later, Alexei Yemelin checked Ziga Jeglic from behind. Jeglic left the ice his face covered in blood and with a fractured nose while Yemelin received a game misconduct and was escorted to the dressing room.
Slovenia had a golden opportunity to get into the game on a 5-on-3 power play, but Russia killed off both Yemelinís major, and Sergei Zinovievís hooking minor.
Slovenia scored first in the second period. Blaz Gregorc shook off a Russian defenceman in the corner, and flipped the puck to the front of then. Andrej Hebar came rushing to the net, and the puck bounced past Yevgeni Nabokov, and the game was tied.
Russia got some relief with five minutes remaining in the period when Maxim Afinogenov fired a wrist shot from the blue line, and with some light traffic in front of Hocevar, the puck found its way to the back of the net at 15:41.
Slovenia didnít give up, though. Early in the third period, Sloveniaís Mitja Sivic battled his way to the Russian net, then spun around and sent the puck to the front of the net. Bostjan Golicic was there all alone. Nabokov made the initial save, but Golicic grabbed is own rebound and tied the game, 2-2.
"I went hard to the net. The rebound just came there and I was in the right spot. This is the area where the goals are scored," Golicic said.
And the Russia got some peace of mind again. Kulikov fired a missile that didnít give Hocevar any chances, giving Russia the lead again at 6:15 into the third period.
In the next shift, Afinogenov, one of the Russian players who showed up to play today, scored his second of the night. First he carried the puck to the Slovenian zone and the puck was played to the blue line. Hocevar made a save, but the rebounded went to Danis Zaripov who found Afinogenov inside the faceoff circle.
But just a 28 seconds later, it was Nabokovís turn to dig the puck from the net. Golicic scored his second of the night when his wrist shot from the top of the circle, hit a teammate who was on the ice after a faceoff, sending the puck over Nabokov in a fine arch.
"It was a little bit of a lucky bounce off my shot over the goalie. I donít know. This was my lucky day," Golicic said.
And then came the goal that must have stopped hearts in both Russia and Slovenia. For different reasons. Andrej Tavzelj's slapshot from the blueline bounced to the front of the net and the first player to get to the puck was Rok Pajic who tied the game.
The final score, 6-4, was sealed with 39 seconds remaining by Sergei Zinoviev.
Slovenia's last game of the preliminary round is against Germany.
"We have a lot of confidence now. We know we can play with the big teams. We just have to keep going. The last Preliminary Round game is coming, and itís the most important for us," said Golicic.
Russia will play Slovakia on Tuesday.
"Weíre going to try everything to win the game against Slovakia. Weíre going to prepare and try not to make the mistakes we made today," said Afinogenov.