The Russians capped off a perfect record in the group stage with an exclamation point, demolishing two-time defending champion Sweden 7-4 in Group B’s last game. Over the course of the seven games, they outscored their opponents 36-7. As a result, Russia finishes first and Sweden third. In between them are the Czechs, who had to wait for the result of this game before they knew where they finished in the group.
“Of course we're confident,” confirmed forward Igor Grigorenko, who scored the fifth Russian goal. “We know how we play, and we've been getting better from the start till now. We're looking forward to the quarter-finals.”
After falling behind early 1-0, the Russians stormed back with six straight second period goals to take firm control of the game. The Swedes then outscored the Russians 3-1 in the third period, but the game was well out of hand by that time.
“If you look at the lineup, they have a lot of good players, a lot of skill,” said Swedish goalie Jakub Markstrom, who was beaten for seven goals on 34 shots. “They're not afraid to pass the puck to each other, either, and set each other up. They play very unselfish. So it's a little weird sometimes that they kind of fake a shot and pass instead. That's changed a lot, I feel, from in the past. So they are very skilled guys and very good hockey players. They're going to be dangerous for the rest of the tournament.”
In a balanced attack, Yevgeni Malkin and Yevgeni Dadonov were the only Russians to record two points in the game. For Sweden, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, William Nylander and Elias Pettersson each had two.
Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevski stopped 36 of 37 Swedish shots.
With a regulation victory, the Swedes would have forced a three-way tie for first and if they won by enough goals, could have finished first. They appeared to have that in mind the way they started, carrying the play for most of the first period and outshooting Russia 10-5 in the opening 20.
“I think we had a good first period, and then we just didn't play our game in the second,” said Nylander. “They were able to score a lot of goals. We played badly there.”
They scored the only goal of the period at 7:32 when Elias Pettersson went back to the point to Marcus Pettersson, whose shot was deflected right in front out of mid-air by Gabriel Landeskog.
The Swedes kept up the momentum thanks to a couple of power plays but were unable to increase their lead, despite some chances.
The Russians got their best chance of the opening 20 minutes in the dying seconds when Nikita Kucherov got to a rebound and, with Markstrom down on his knees, tried to go upstairs on the backhand but hit the big goalie in his head.
Overall, though, the Russians were not happy with their first period but that all changed in period number two as they came out with a barrage of six goals on 20 shots.
“We said in the dressing room, ‘We’ll just play our game.’” said defenceman Nikita Zadorov. “When we play our game, I don’t think anyone can stay with us. We knew if we forechecked their D, they would make mistakes and that’s what happened. If you look at our lineup, any line can score, so we don’t need many chances.”
Before the middle frame was a minute old, they’d tied the score. The Russians broke into the Swedish zone 2-on-1, and Nikita Gusev fed Artyom Anisimov, who fired inside the near-side post before Markstrom could slide across and reach it with the glove.
Just seconds after that goal they broke into the Swedish zone again, this time Mikhail Sergachyov feeding Ilya Kovalchuk, who was robbed by Markstrom. The Vancouver Canucks goalie would be overwhelmed by the storming Russians this period, though.
Just three minutes later, Russia took a lead it would never relinquish. Sergyachov’s shot from the point was deflected out of mid-air in front of the net by Yevgeni Dadonov. The Swedes claimed it was a high stick and the play was reviewed, but the goal stood and the Russians were off to the races.
It was starting to look like the Harlem Globetrotters on ice when Malkin dropped a pass between his legs to Alexander Ovechkin, who ripped it high, stick side on Markstrom to make it 3-1 at 28:52.
They kept coming. Kirill Kaprizov scored right off a faceoff at 34:39 to make it 4-1, Grigorenko shot it through the beleaguered goalie at 37:17 to make it 5-1, and Malkin’s shot from the slot went off a Swedish defenceman’s stick and in at 37:47.
“We were up 1-0 coming into the second and they get six in the second,” said a dejected Markstrom. “Every chance and every shot on net, I felt like the puck was going in. At the end of the day, it's my job to stop the puck as a goaltender. So I gotta do a better job.”
“Obviously the second period was huge for us,” said Grigorenko. “Second period, far benches, good line changes. We created a lot of chances and scored on those shots. Maybe we got a couple of good bounces there. Overall, we played a good game.”
The frustration on the Swedish team became apparent when Patric Hornqvist was assessed a 10-minute misconduct after an argument with a referee in the dying seconds of the second period.
The score remained 6-1 until the final eight minutes, when a barrage of four goals were scored, three by Sweden, but by that time, they were well out of reach. Nylander cut the gap to 6-2 before Dmitri Orlov scored Russia's last goal of the game with 7:03 to play. In the last four minutes, Ekman-Larsson and John Klingberg made the final score look a bit more respectable.
For the quarter-finals, Russia stays in Bratislava to take on the USA, while Sweden travels to Kosice to face their Nordic rivals from Finland.