QUEBEC CITY – The script wasn’t anything by Lars von Trier, the drama didn’t come close to the works of Tolstoy, and yes, the plot was predictable when Russia beat Denmark 4-1 on Tuesday afternoon.
With their third straight win, the Russians claimed first place in Group D and now get two days off before facing Group A’s third-place finisher on Friday.
For Denmark, meeting Russia was a lesson in hockey. Coach Mike Sirant decided to let veteran goalie Peter Hirsch sit this one out, and sent 22-year-old Patrick Galbraith to meet the Russian offensive guns in his IIHF World Championship debut.
“It was almost like a once-in-a-lifetime experience to play against these Russians,” said Galbraith. “I almost wanted to keep the puck as a souvenir after making a save.”
The Russians used their only healthy registered goalie, Mikhail Biryukov, with the injured Alexander Eremenko sitting on the bench. San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov will come on board for the Qualifying Round.
Sergei Fedorov was Russia’s offensive leader with a goal and an assist, and Ilya Kovalchuk added a pair of helpers.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re playing a small nation or a big one at this level,” said Fedorov. “Denmark played very organized hockey and they did their best. For us, there’s room for improvement. It’s hard to say, because we’ve played against Italy and Denmark. The real tests are ahead of us.”
Russia took command of the game from the beginning, while the Danes focused on defending their own net and helping Galbraith. Russia outshot Denmark 13-3 in the first period, which in this case is a good indication of what the game looked like.
Denmark had its chance halfway through the first period when it got a 4-on-3 power play. However, it couldn’t capitalize on its few chances, and just two shifts later, Afinogenov took a pass at the red line, skated into the Danish zone, took a step inside and, using the Danish defenceman as a screen, gave Russia a 1-0 lead at 10:38.
At 7:07 of the second period, Alexander Ovechkin extended Russia’s lead to 2-0 when he one-timed a Fedorov pass from the slot through Galbraith’s pads.
Halfway through the game, Russia took a three-goal lead on the power play when Fedorov’s shot from the line sailed into the net with Ovechkin providing the screen in front.
Getting on the scoreboard was a welcome change for the former Hart and Selke Trophy winner, as Fedorov was involved in two disallowed goals in the opener versus Italy.
At 2:47 of the third period, Russia took a 4-0 lead when Konstantin Gorovikov snuck a rebound under Galbraith’s right arm.
The Danes gave their enthusiastic fans something to cheer about on a late power play with Vitali Proshkin in the box. Kim Staal’s quick shot from the left faceoff circle through traffic spoiled Biryukov’s shutout bid with under three minutes remaining.
“Hardly ever does a 4-1 goal feel as good as this one, because we really wanted to score on them,” said Staal.
Final shots on goal favoured Russia 43-20.
Compared to last year’s tournament in Russia, the result was an improvement for Denmark, which lost 9-1 to the hosts at Khodynka Arena. But Denmark has now lost all four of its meetings with Russia at the Worlds dating back to 2003.
“Losing 4-1 to Russia is a step forward for us,” said Jannik Hansen. “We were on our heels for a long time, but for the most part we hung in there.”
Russian defenceman Daniil Markov left the game after taking a questionable hit along the boards in the neutral zone in the first period.
Announced attendance was 8,609.
RISTO PAKARINEN & LUCAS AYKROYD