QUEBEC CITY – It didn’t take long for Russia’s MIG-29 fighters to shift into full combat mode. Alexander Semin led the way in a 7-1 romp over Italy with two goals and an assist.
This Group D mismatch came down to skills and puck possession. The Russians made sure the Italians barely got to touch the little black disc, and then flattened their opponents’ defences like thin-crust pizza with lightning passes and shots.
Semin took the game’s first penalty, but he quickly made amends by scoring the first goal for Russia, splitting the Italian defence and roofing a backhander past Italian netminder Thomas Tragust at 4:02.
The Russians toyed with their opponents for the rest of the opening period, outshooting them 16-3. At 13:10, Sergei Fedorov tipped in a pass from Washington teammate Alexander Ovechkin, but the goal was waved off because Fedorov was in the crease.
Fedorov, playing his first IIHF World Championship game since 1990, wore #29 instead of the #91 he made famous in the NHL.
Just after an Italian penalty expired, the Washington connection clicked, with Ovechkin scooping up a puck at the side of the net and tucking it past Tragust’s right pad at 23:39. The assists went to Semin and Fedorov.
Midway through the game, the Russians had the puck on a string, and Alexei Morozov appeared to be robbed by Tragust on a wide-open chance set up by Ilya Kovalchuk. But after an extended video review, it was determined that Tragust’s glove was over the line, and it was 3-0 Russia.
“I had a feeling it was a goal, and so it was,” said Tragust. “No arguments there. The Russians have a lot of players that shoot well. There wasn’t much I could do.”
Just over a minute later, Alexei Tereschenko stepped in from the point and rifled home a blast, and at 31:18, Semin absolutely zinged a wrister over Tragust’s glove to make it 5-0.
Fedorov had another goal waved off when the whistle blew due to a hand pass from Ovechkin. But Maxim Sushinsky’s cheeky backhander from the edge of the crease gave Russia a six-goal lead with just over three minutes before the second buzzer.
Jason Cirone spoiled Alexander Eremenko’s shutout bid with 8:31 left, stuffing in a Patrick Iannone shot that trickled through the goalie's pads on a 2-on-1 rush.
Danis Zaripov beat Gunther Hell, who replaced Tragust in the third period, to round out the scoring with Russia’s lone power play marker of the night.
Final shots on goal favoured the Russians 44-18. Next up, they face the Czechs in a likely showdown for first place in the group on May 4, while the Italians clash with Denmark in hopes of avoiding the Relegation Round.
“We’ll have to get a lot better against the Czechs,” said Fedorov. “Everything must improve, because it’ll be a faster tempo. Better passes, and the team game has to be better, so we need shorter shifts.”
Notes: The result improved Russia’s all-time World Championship record versus Italy to eight wins and one tie…The Kazan line that dominated last year’s tournament in Moscow, each member cracking the Top Five in scoring, was split up, as Ilya Kovalchuk took Danis Zaripov’s place alongside Sergei Zinoviev and Alexei Morozov…The pre-game ceremonies featured appearances by IIHF President René Fasel, Quebec hockey legend Jean Beliveau, Quebec City Host Committee co-presidents Claude Rousseau, and Jacques Tanguay, Hockey Canada director Rene Marcil, and Jean Leclair, Chairman of the Board of the 400th Anniversary Society. Beliveau got a standing ovation...“It was a little strange to have the CCCP logo there, but we had the Russian one too,” said Ovechkin of Russia’s retro look. “We consider it like a gift to the older players.”
Alexander Ovechkin in the retro jersey. Photo: IIHF/HHoF/Matthew Manor