A third period goal by Marc Arcobello would prove the difference. Jack Campbell, making his first start, stopped 15 of 17 shots.
Team USA’s three game win streak, including this game against Russia, is even more impressive given that the team has been together for about a week and comprised of players coming from different leagues stretching across the United States, Canada and Europe.
These countries share a long and dramatic history for as long as they’ve faced each other in international hockey competition.
Over the last two World Championship tournaments, Russia and the United States have battled for group position, national bragging rights and a chance to win a medal.
Last year, both teams entered their matchup with identical 2-0 records. Team USA beat host Belarus and Switzerland. Russia came into the game having defeated Switzerland and Finland. Russia beat the United States in a rout, 6-1 on their way to eventually winning gold.
In 2013, again both teams went into their confrontation each with 2-0 records. Again the Russians won by the score of 5-3. However, Team USA would have its revenge in the quarterfinals routing Russia 8-3 on their way to taking home a bronze.
From the opening faceoff, Team USA was looking to score. Torey Krug sent a little pass to Brock Nelson that sent him in alone on goal. Not long after, defenseman Maxim Chudinov ripped a wrist shot on goal that was saved by Campbell, who started in place of Connor Hellebuyck.
"It’s even more fun to play than I ever thought it could be." Campbell said. "I’ve gotten a game in the NHL but this is another level. Especially hearing their crowd screaming Russia the whole time, it makes you want to beat them all the more. It’s a fast game, a lot of great players and it’s an honor to be out here and get the win."
USA efforts paid off at 6:22 when Trevor Lewis banged home his second goal in as many games. The lone goal would stand up through the period, staking the Americans to a 1-0 lead. Seth Jones would get the first of two assists on the day.
The first period started well for both team and was certainly entertaining for the crowd. End to end action and scoring chances marked the first twenty minutes although there were only twelve shots by both teams in the period. As entertaining as the action was the defensive coverage by both teams were solid.
"Undoubtedly those guys are going to get their chances, their opportunities." Torey Krug said. "You can’t stop all of them but we did a pretty good job of keeping that number down. We did well at realizing when we had to calm the game down, get the puck out of the zone. The guys are really commited to team defense."
In the second, Russia evened the score when Anton Belov scored his first of the tournament. Artemi Panarin passed on a shot in front and passed back out to Belov. Campbell dropped behind Panarin and was out of position leaving Belov with time and opportunity. For Belov it was his first of the tournament.
USA was presented with a two-man advantage for 1:28 when Belov and Yevgeni Medvedev were sent to the penalty box. Head coach Todd Richards used a timeout to communicate to his charges how best to use what was their best opportunity at the time to regain the lead. The US made it work. As the first penalty wound down, a Justin Faulk shot ringed around the boards and almost out of the Russian zone. Seth Jones was just able to keep it in and direct the puck towards Krug whose wrist shot sailed over Sergei Bobrovski’s shoulder on the glove side.
The power play here had a huge impact.
"I think special teams were the difference." Viktor Tikhonov said. "We didn’t score on our PP and they got that goal on the 5-on-3, that was the big swing in the game. That’s something we’re going to work on."
Teams traded goals in the third period with Arcobello and Sergei Plotnick getting on the board. Arcobello grabbed a loose puck just outside the Russian zone and skated in to score, putting his team up by two goals. This would later prove to be the game-winning goal.
Now down by two, Russia was not finished yet. Plotnick’s tally at 3:41 kept it close and his team still in the hunt. Russia would put a lot of pressure on the puck the rest of the way, including a chip over the net by Ilya Kovalchuk. The Americans kept their composure and the lead, adding a Brock Nelson empty net goal for good measure.
The win for the Americans now gives them nine points and puts them alone atop Group B. With the loss, Russia at this time sits second in the group with six points.
Russia's loss was the first World Championship defeat for head coach Oleg Znarok since taking over the national team last year. Russia went undefeated in winning gold in Minsk.