COLOGNE – Russia has advanced to the 2010 IIHF World Championship final, as expected, but it had to work the full 60 minutes in the game against Germany. Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin - the last players to join the team - scored for Russia and Vasili Koshechkin made 26 save en route to a 2-1 win.
"Every game, you go deeper and deeper, and it's tougher and tougher. Especially when you play the home team, they have lots of fans and that helped them," Datsyuk said.
"I think we're more disappointed now than if we'd gotten blown out in the game. We had a chance to win right until the end. It's a very disappointing feeling, but when we step back from it, later tonight or tomorrow morning, I think we have a lot to be proud of," said goaltender Rob Zepp, coach Uwe Krupp's surprising choice for the game.
Russian coach Vyacheslav Bykov had make a couple of changes to his lineup, too. Alexander Semin didn’t dress so Maxim Sushinsky took his place in the line with Alexander Ovechkin and Sergei Fedorov. Vasili Koshechkin tended the goal.
"We wanted to give a chance our second goalie, he deserved the chance. Semin didn’t feel very well today. Both Semin and Varlamov will play tomorrow," said Bykov.
Not even Russia can play shorthanded half the period, and big chunks of it with a two-man disadvantage, but that's what happened in the first.
Nikolai Kulemin checked Korbinian Holzer into the boards. Both players left the ice as Holzer was helped off and Kulemin received a boarding major and a game misconduct.
When Alexei Emelin took a hooking penalty during Kulemin’s major, Germany had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:54 minutes. It only lasted 51 seconds. Christian Ehrhoff took a slapshot from the point, and Germany’s captain Marcel Goc was the first one to the rebound and slammed it in at 15:30.
John Tripp to a high sticking penalty 2:36 into the second period. While everybody waited for a Russian push, instead, Sergei Gonchar made a turnover on the German blueline, and Felix Schütz found himself on a breakaway. Koshechkin made a quick pad save to stop him.
Midway through the second period, the thousands of Russian fans in the Lanxess Arena could first let out a sigh of relief and then scream as loud as they could - and they did - when Evgeni Malkin tied the game. He took a pass from Gonchar, and onetimed a slapshot from the point, beating Zepp at 11:07 into the second period. Ilya Kovalchuk’s assist was his 11th point in the tournament, making him the leading scorer.
Even if Germany had outshot Russia 26-21 halfway through the third period, it was Russia who controlled the game. But Germany defended well and kept the Russian superstars on the outside, and Zepp had no problems with the shots he faced.
In the next five minutes, Russia outshot Germany 6-1, and when Sven Felski took his second two-minute penalty of the night, Russia's win seemed inevitable. It was Kovalchuk, Gonchar, Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, and Alexander Ovechkin against the German penalty kill. And the penalty kill won.
A few minutes later, a German forward turned the puck over on the Russian blueline, Datsyuk made an end-to-end rush, and, to the disappointment of the home team fans, beat Zepp with a wrist shot to give Russia the lead, and the win, at 18:10 into the third period.
"It was a two-on-one and and he was showing pass all the time, but changed his mind at the last second," Zepp said.
"We knew we had a chance. Our first game against them was close, 3-2, and although we lost, we know they have to be at their best to beat us when we play the way we want. It was a great game for us and unlucky that we lost," added Andre Rankel.
Germany still has a chance to win the nation's first medal since 1953 when it plays Sweden tomorrow at 16:15.
"It's a great team, but I think we have a chance. They had a game today, too, and it went to overtime. We're in the same boat, you're just running on adrenaline," said Zepp.
The Russia - Czech Republic final will be played at 20:30.
"They're like Germany, it's very, very dangerous team," said Kovalchuk.
"If a team makes it to the final, it's one of the best teams in the tournament. I know it'll be a good game and a tough game," added Datsyuk.