Linemates Alex Ovechkin, Viktor Tikhonov and Sergei Plotnikov combined for four goals and eight points when Russia earned some measure of revenge against the United States in a 6-1 victory in preliminary-round action of the 2014 IIHF World Championship at Minsk Arena in Belarus on Monday.
Russia was beaten by the United States, 8-3, in the quarterfinal round of the 2013 World Championship. Led by Ovechkin, captain of the Washington Capitals, Russia is unbeaten in three games this year and sits atop the Group B standings. Russia is seeking its first gold medal since the 2012 WC.
"We played very aggressive hockey, and scored another early goal even though we've not had much chance to rest," Russian coach Oleg Znaroks told the IIHF website. "A win's and win and I'm happy for the guys."
The loss was the first for the U.S. in three games and the worst defeat against Russia at the World Championship since a 12-2 defeat in 1991. Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning), who earned a surprise start in place of Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets), made 39 saves. The 19-year-old had 16 saves in the second and 14 in the third.
Tikhonov (Phoenix Coyotes), the grandson of former Russian hockey coach Viktor Tikhonov, had two goals and one assist; Ovechkin had one goal and two assists and Plotnikov, who plays in the Kontinental Hockey League, chipped in with a goal and an assist. Ovechkin has scored a goal in all three games for Russia after producing just one at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in February.
Tikhonov gave Russia 3-0 lead just 20 seconds into the second before U.S. captain Justin Abdelkader scored 37 seconds later to pull his country within 3-1. Russia then scored three straight to completely take over the game.
When Plotnikov scored to give Russia a 5-1 lead at 11:07, U.S. coach Peter Laviolette decided to replace starting goalie Tim Thomas (10 saves on 15 shots) with David Leggio (seven saves on eight shots). The United States held a 17-7 shot advantage against Russia in the second but was outscored, 4-1.
Tikhonov scored his second of the game with 46 seconds remaining in the second when he finished a 3-on-0 breakout off a give-and-go with Ovechkin. Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington Capitals) also scored for Russia.
Russia scored two goals in the opening 20 minutes to grab the early lead. Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto Maple Leafs) swept home a rebound from the slot at 6:06 to the delight of the Russian-partisan crowd. Evgeny Medvedev took the initial blast from the right point that Thomas stopped but couldn't control.
Ovechkin gave his country a 2-0 lead off a penalty shot at 18:47. Ovechkin was kept from going 1-on-1 against Thomas when he was hooked from behind by defenseman Danny DeKeyser (Detroit Red Wings). On his attempt, Ovechkin skated into the right circle and cut across the crease before lifting a backhand over the outstretched right pad of Thomas.
"Moments like these, it's always a fifty-fifty chance." Ovechkin told the IIHF website. "I saw him skate out far and the ice was in my favor, the puck didn't jump over my stick when I switched to the backhand."
Each team resumes tournament play on Thursday. Russia looks to remain unbeaten against Kazakhstan and the United States attempts to rebound against Latvia.
Canada 4, Czech Republic 3: Kyle Turris (Ottawa Senators), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) and Morgan Rielly (Toronto Maple Leafs) scored goals in the second period to give Canada a 4-1 lead in preliminary round play at Chizhovka Arena. MacKinnon, a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year, and Rielly scored power-play goals 17 seconds apart late in the second to give the Canadians a 4-1 lead.
"We walk away with the win, but our team has a lot of work to do," Canada coach Dave Tippett told the IIHF website.
The Czech Republic rallied on an even-strength goal by Jiri Novotny at 12:11 and a power-play goal by Tomas Hertl (San Jose Sharks) at 13:00 to pull within one. Hertl's goal on the man advantage was off an assist from Jaromir Jagr (New Jersey Devils).
The Czechs had opened a 1-0 lead in the first when Roman Cervenka scored at 5:55.
Canada will next play Denmark on Thursday and the Czech Republic will face Italy on Wednesday.
France 5, Slovakia 3: France scored four goals in the final five minutes of the third period to overcome a 3-1 deficit in preliminary-round competition in Group A at Chizhovka Arena.
Damien Fleury gave France a 4-3 lead with 3:41 remaining in regulation before Antoine Roussel (Dallas Stars) scored his second of the game into an empty net with 28 seconds left. Fleury's decisive goal came less than two minutes after France had denied Slovakia on a 5-on-3 advantage.
Baptiste Amar also scored two goals for France, which has one regulation win, one overtime win and a regulation loss for five points. Goalie Cristobal Huet, the hero in a 3-2 shootout victory for France against Canada on Friday, had 18 saves.
"I think we had maybe 10 minutes of great hockey in their zone and then they scored that goal on the power play to make it 3-1," Amar told the IIHF website. "We just told ourselves, 'That's it. Let's play in their zone. Let's put a lot of pressure on those guys. Let's not play fancy.' That's how we were able to come back."
Belarus 4, Switzerland 3: Sergei Kostitsyn scored two goals for the host country in preliminary-round Group B competition at Minsk Arena. Kostitsyn scored 9:49 into the third to pull Belarus into a 3-3 tie before Mikhail Grabovski (Washington Capitals) gave Belarus the lead for good off a lead pass from Kostitsyn at 17:54. Belarus was forced to kill a late penalty to secure its one-goal victory for goalie Vitali Koval (28 saves).
"It wasn't just about my pass; you have to get open for it like [Grabovski] did," Kostitsyn told the IIHF website. "The key thing was that I came out in the third period and played alongside Grabovski and [Alexei] Kalyuzhny. They are big-time players. [Belarus coach] Glen Hanlon feels the game very well and he felt that if he put us three together we could create chances and score goals."
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