Adding David Pastrnak and David Krejci paid off immediately. Not only did the Czechs break Russia’s three-game shutout streak with the magic of the two Boston Bruins stars, but they also triumphed 4-3 on Thursday on Pastrnak's overtime winner.
The goal at 3:23 was a masterpiece of craftiness. After taking Krejci's pass on the rush, Pastrnak couldn't beat Russian starter Vasili Koshechkin with his initial deke, but he retrieved the puck behind the net and banked it in off defenceman Yegor Yakovlev in the crease.
Pastrnak finished with two goals and an assist and Krejci had a goal and three assists. Jaskin added a single for the Czechs. Meanwhile, Alexander Barabanov led Russia with a goal and an assist, and Nikita Nesterov and Mikhail Grigorenko also tallied.
Despite their third extra-time win of the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, the Czechs sit fifth in Group A with six points, behind Slovakia. Russia is second in the group with 10 points, behind perfect Sweden.
"We had a really good game," said Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk. "Of course, there were lots of mistakes on both sides. But today wasn't a game that we had to win at all costs. The coaches tried to make a few changes in our lines. Now we'll look at that and see what works and what doesn't."
Koshechkin’s personal shutout streak ended at 114:41, as backup Igor Shestyorkin played the final period in the 7-0 romp over Austria. (The modern-day World Championship record belongs to Finland’s Pekka Rinne, who did not allow a goal for 237:05 in 2015.)
While the shots were only 25-23 for the Czechs, both teams generated high-quality chances. It was a tight-checking yet exciting showdown between two traditional rivals in front of a jacked-up sell-out crowd of 12,490 at Copenhagen's Royal Arena.
Russia drew first blood at 1:11. From the left side, Barabanov stickhandled through rookie blueliner Filip Hronek, cut to the net and was stopped by goalie David Rittich, but the rebound squirted out to Nesterov, who hammered it home high to the stick side. That was the first goal by a Russian defenceman at these Worlds. Chants of “Rossiya!” energized the building, and the Czech fans got loud too.
At 14:41, Krejci gobbled up a loose puck in the high slot and beat Koshechkin high to the stick side to tie it up. The 32-year-old Krejci led the NHL playoffs in scoring in 2011 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup and in 2013 when they lost the final to the Chicago Blackhawks.
At 18:39, an unguarded Jaskin made it 2-1 with his third goal of the tournament when Pastrnak found him unguarded in the slot to beat Koshechkin. Jaskin pumped his fist and pointed straight to his new 21-year-old linemate, who currently sits third in NHL playoff scoring with 20 points despite Boston's elimination by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"The guys from Boston really lifted the Czechs' game," admitted Datsyuk. "It was clear that they were excited about coming to Denmark."
Both the goals and the great saves came fast and furious in the second period.
The Russians took just one minute to knot the score with classic Soviet-style playmaking. Artyom Anisimov sent the puck behind the Czech net to Pavel Buchnevich, and he pivoted to send a lovely backhanded pass out front to Grigorenko, who lifted it past Rittich. Moments later, the Czech netminder came up big to foil Anisimov on a shorthanded breakaway.
When the Czechs failed to convert on an odd-man rush, Krejci grabbed the puck behind the net and coolly centred it to Pastrnak. He put it in the open side to the goalie’s left for a 3-2 lead at 4:17.
Just 1:32 later, Zaitsev faked a slap shot from the right faceoff circle and instead slid it to Barabanov, who had all day to slide it into the gaping cage. Rittich then robbed Zaitsev with a right pad save during a Russian power play.
Czech fans jeered when Tomas Plekanec was called for goaltender interference with under four minutes left in the middle frame. Plekanec ran into Koshechkin on an odd-man break with Dominik Kubalek, as Zaitsev checked him from behind. During the ensuing power play, Yevgeni Dadonov managed to hit both posts with a wacky centre point shot that bounced off the ice, but the score remained 3-3.
"Of course it was the most difficult game for us so far," said Russia's Kirill Kaprizov. "We'll go away, look at what went wrong, and work out how to improve."
In the scoreless final stanza, the teams traded power plays and the Czechs came perilously close to taking the lead with Buchnevich in the box. Krejci set up Pastrnak for a stellar one-timer that Kosheckin got over to block. Late in regulation, Russia hemmed their opponents in but couldn't find the go-ahead goal. The Krejci line also came calling with an effective forecheck.
"You could see the difference between our first group of players and today's players," Jandac stated. "The first line was involved in all of our goals."
The Russians have placed leading 2018 Olympic scorer Nikita Gusev and goalie Ilya Sorokin on their roster, but neither suited up against the Czechs.
Russia missed its chance to open the IIHF World Championship with four straight regulation wins for the first time since its last Worlds gold run in Minsk 2014. It's the first setback for new head coach Ilya Vorobyov. The Riga-born 43-year-old surprisingly replaced Oleg Znarok, who guided the Olympic Athletes from Russia to gold in February. He was previously Znarok's assistant.
Next up, the Czech Republic faces winless Belarus on Friday, while the Russians take on Switzerland on Saturday.