(Courtesy of Jukka Rautio/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Russia continue to cruise towards their third straight gold medal at the Men’s World Championship after posting back-to-back wins over the weekend in the qualifying round. On Saturday, Russia played their arguably most difficult game against hosts Germany in front of a crowd of 18,000, captain Ilya Kovalchuk opened up the scoring with a wrist shot 14:20 into the period. Despite having the early lead the Russians were outshout 13-12 forcing Semyon Varlamov to stop more than half of the shots he faced against Belarus on Thursday.
Nikolai Kulemin doubled the lead 6:20 in the second period off a deflection from Maxin Afinogenov’s shot before Christian Ehrhoff brought one back for the home team off a one-timer as time expired. It was Ehrhoff’s first game with the Germans after his Vancouver Canucks were bounced from the playoffs days before.
Russia would double their lead thanks to who else? but Alexander Ovechkin who continued his goal streak by ripping a wrist shot on a feed from Kovalchuk with 10 minutes in the game. The Kovy to Ovie connection would prove dividends as Germany’s Alexander Barta would beat Varlamov on a rebound to bring his team within one.
Varly would stand tall and close the door on any comeback to seal Russia’s fifth consecutive win.
Sunday saw the Russians thrash Denmark in grand fashion thanks mostly to Pavel Datsyuk who scored a hat-trick in his second game with the team. Goalie Vasili Koshechkin took the reigns for the second time this tournament having won the first game against Slovakia. Datsyuk opened the scoring 15 minutes into the first period beating goalie Frederik Andersen with a low wrist shot.
Ovechkin would get into the act for his 5th consecutive goal four minutes later, while on the penalty kill his wrist shot hit the net camera and bounced back so fast that the goal had to be reviewed before it was deemed good. Mads Christensen would get Denmark within one on the power-play beating Koshechkin on a deflection five minutes into the second period.
Evgeni Malkin would double the lead for the Russians on the power-play scoring a spin-o-rama goal for his first of the tournament in the second period. He would then get the primary assist on Datsyuk’s second goal seven minutes into the third period in which Datsyuk deked around a falling Andersen to backhand into an empty net.
He would clinch the trick on a penalty shot awarded when Thor Dresler stopped his attempt which Datsyuk used to fool Andersen again. Kulemin finished the romp on a one-timer for his second in as many games just minutes later.
The win, thanks mostly to the Kovalchuk-Malkin-Datsyuk line who combined for 10 points, clinched Russia’s spot in the quarterfinals as well as making it the team’s 23rd straight tournament win. Russia now hasn’t lost a World Championship game since the 2-1 overtime loss to Finland in 2007. The Red Machine looks to be firing on all cylinders and will look for win no.24 against Finland on Tuesday. Below are the highlights from Sunday’s win.