Going for bronze carries little pizzaz for Muscovites – Khodynka Arena is less than three-quarters full at faceoff at 4:15. In Russia, it appears, it's Gold or nothing for many of the hockey fans.
As expected, none of Russia's key injured performers dresses for the game. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar wears the ''C.'' But one change in the team from Saturday is apparent early on: the Russian trademark trailer scoring chance, mysteriously abandoned against the Finns, returns, and presents Sweden with trouble. In fact, the Russians'' first goal, a short-handed tally, comes with a trailing defender, Alexey Emelin, pounding home a high slot rebound.
Alex Ovechkin alternates between being a hot knife slicing through butter against the Swedish defenders and being a bull in a china shop, simply steamrolling them out of his way. He clocks one Swedish defender so hard onto his fanny it makes the Khodynka crowd laugh, and seconds later, barrels into a Swedish blueliner against the endboards so hard they both fall down. Against Sweden, Ovechkin plays his best game of the 2007 Worlds.
Sweden's medal round opening periods are a nightmare: 0-3 to Canada on Saturday and 0-2 Sunday to Russia. Both opening stanzas characterized by a bench-wide lifelessness by the Swedes.
Russian defenseman Alexey Emelin was one of the best players on the ice Sunday to these eyes. Besides scoring the first Russian goal and assisting on the second, he was effective in his own end and finished with a plus-2 on the afternoon. For his efforts, Emelin was named Russia’s best player of the game. Emelin was the Montreal Canadiens’ third-round choice (73rd overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Like it did in Saturday’s semifinal game against Canada, Sweden dug itself an early hole on Sunday. Russia’s Alexander Frolov deftly broke up a Nicklas Backstrom pass that might have resulted in a goal had it reached its intended target. Frolov then broke the puck out of the zone, passed it to Danis Zaripov and made a beeline for the Sweden net. But rather than try to force a pass to Frolov, whose man was covering him tightly, Zaripov smartly dished a drop pass to Emelin, who fired it home to give Russia a 1-0 lead.
For Sweden, Sunday must have seemed like Groundhog’s Day. As in Saturday’s loss to Team Canada Sweden didn’t pack it in. In Saturday’s game, the Swedes were down 3-0 at the end of the first period. On Sunday, the Swedes surrendered two in the first went down 3-0 just over a minute into the second period. Sweden tightened up defensively and righted the ship and finally was able to break the goose egg late on Alexander Steen’s goal midway through the third. Russia scored once shorthanded, once at even strength, and once on the power play.
Backstrom’s pass led to a turnover, which in turn led to the first Russian goal, but he also picked up an assist on Sweden’s lone goal of the game. Backstrom assisted on Alexander Steen’s power play strike in the third. Backstrom finished the tournament with a goal, six points and a plus-2 defensive rating.