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Russia seeks second straight victory, faces winless Kazakhstan

NHL.com @NHL

When Russia coach Vladimir Krikunov gave the starting goaltender job to Evgeni Nabokov, his team's Olympic fate may have taken a turn for the better.

The Russians seek consecutive victories behind Nabokov when they face winless Kazakhstan on Saturday.

After the Russians were upset 5-3 by Slovakia on Wednesday, Krikunov demoted Ilya Bryzgalov and turned to Nabokov, who had been benched by the San Jose Sharks before the Olympics began because of inconsistent play.

Nabokov rose to the challenge, making 24 saves in a 5-0 win over Sweden on Thursday.

"The most important thing is that we changed the goaltender," Krikunov said. "Yesterday, I can say it was my mistake that Bryzgalov was the main goaltender."

Bryzgalov, who Krikunov said does not "understand his coach," made 31 saves against the Slovaks, but allowed two goals by Marian Gaborik late in the third period to break a 3-3 tie.

Maxim Sokolov, added to the team as an injury replacement for Nikolai Khabibulin, will serve as Nabokov's backup against Kazakhstan.

Alexei Kovalev, Alexander Ovechkin and Maxim Sushinsky scored in a span of just over 11 minutes of the second period to give Nabokov all the offensive support he would need against the Swedes.

"He's an unbelievable goalie and he's proving that right now," said Maxim Afinogenov, who scored Russia's final goal. "He made so many saves tonight."

Kovalev got his team on the board by beating Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a slap shot at 7:13 of the second period before Ovechkin added his second tally in as many games 52 seconds later.

Sushinsky scored on a 3-on-1 rush at 18:58 to make it 3-0, and Viktor Kozlov added a goal midway through the third to extend the lead.

"The young guys really came through today, especially in that second period to generate those scoring chances," said Kovalev, the Montreal Canadiens right wing who won a gold medal with the Unified Team in 1992 in Albertville and a bronze with Russia in 2002 at Salt Lake City.

Russia will face Latvia on Sunday and the United States on Tuesday to close preliminary-round play.

Kazakhstan is the only winless team in Group B after losing 7-2 to Sweden on Wednesday and 4-1 to the U.S. on Thursday.

Yevgeniy Koreshkov scored the lone goal Thursday for the Kazakhs, who were outshot 26-6 midway through the second period and 36-12 overall.

Colorado Avalanche goalie Vitaly Kolesnik, one of only two NHL players on Kazakhstan's roster along with the Toronto Maple Leafs Nik Antropov, faced 17 shots in the first and allowed a goal just 94 seconds in. The Americans then added two power-play goals to take a 3-0 lead after one.

Following a scoreless second, Koreshkov's tally cut the deficit to 3-1 at 11:02 of the third when he redirected Alexey Vassilchenko's shot from the point on the power play.

The U.S., however, scored just 51 seconds later.

Kazakhstan, which finished eighth in its first Olympics in 1998 at Nagano, lost 9-2 to eventual silver-medalist Russia early in the medal round of those games.

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