Russia erased an early two-goal deficit and scored on each of its shootout attempts to defeat Denmark 3-2 on Friday in the opening game of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
In the second game in Group B, Sweden got two goals from Adrian Kempe and defeated the Czech Republic 5-2. Sweden (1-0-0) leads the group with three points, Russia (1-0-0) has two, Denmark (0-0-1) has one and the Czech Republic (0-1-0) none.
Denmark killed off two early Russia power plays in the first period and then scored on two power plays of its own 1:34 apart to take a 2-0 lead.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Nikolaj Ehlers (Winnipeg Jets) each scored on slap shots with the goalie screened, at 13:15 and 15:49 respectively, to give Denmark an early 2-0 cushion. Entering this year's tournament, Denmark had never won a game at the WJC.
"We started out feeling good, and as the game went on we felt better and better," Bjorkstrand said, according to the IIHF website. "We got close and felt we played really well. Our speed matches up well with theirs, I think, even though they might be a bit bigger."
Russia outshot Denmark 17-11 during the second period and was able to cut its deficit in half. Nikolai Goldobin (San Jose Sharks) scored on a power play with less than a minute to go in the period to bring Russia within 2-1. Ivan Provorov, a top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft, shot wide of the goal but Goldobin corralled the loose puck and managed to shoot it in from the goal line with 47 seconds remaining.
"We came out with a different game in the second," Russia forward Sergey Tolchinsky (Carolina Hurricanes) said, according to the IIHF website. "We wanted to shoot the puck more, play at a faster pace."
Again outshooting Denmark in the third period, Russia tied the game when Maxim Mamin scored at 7:07 of the third to make it 2-2. Vladimir Bryukvin threw the puck toward the crease, and with traffic in front it deflected off Mamin and in to tie the game.
In the shootout Ehlers and Bjorkstrand were stopped by Ilya Sorokin (New York Islanders), and Tolchinsky and Goldobin converted on their attempts to give Russia the win. Goldobin ended the game when he skated in, lost the puck while he stickhandled but saw it go through the legs of Georg Sorensen.
"As I skated in I saw the goalie back up and the net opened," Tolchinsky said. "So I just shot and the puck went in."
George Sorensen made 37 saves for Denmark. Sorokin finished with 24 saves for Russia.
In the second game, Sweden earned its eighth consecutive WJC victory against the Czech Republic since a 3-1 loss on Dec. 31, 2002.
William Nylander, chosen by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the eighth pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, gave the local fans something to look forward to when he broke a 2-2 tie at 10:29 of the second period. Oskar Lindblom (Philadelphia Flyers) intercepted the puck along the boards and fired a quick pass to Nylander alone in front of Czech goaltender Vitek Vanecek (Washington Capitals). Nylander ripped a shot past Vanacek's stick to put Sweden ahead to stay.
"It was good to get off to a good start in the tournament after two bad exhibition games," Nylander said, according to the IIHF website. "It's our first game, and we want to go far in the tournament, so we wanted to just play our game and get going."
Sweden scored twice late in the first period. Kempe (Los Angeles Kings) beat Vanecek from the top of the circle with a high wrist shot at 14:46, and Jens Looke made it 2-0 with 47.5 seconds remaining when he knocked in his own rebound after a turnover.
The Czech Republic pulled even in the second period on back-to-back goals by Jakub Vrana (Washington Capitals). A turnover by defenseman Robert Hagg (Philadelphia Flyers) sent Vrana in on a breakaway, and he put the puck between the pads of goaltender Linus Soderstrom (New York Islanders) at 3:33 to make it 2-1.
Vrana tied it at 10:02 when he was left alone in front, took a pass from Ondrej Kase (Anaheim Ducks) and put a high shot past Soderstrom.
But Nylander triggered choruses of “Go, Leafs, Go!” when he put Sweden back in front 27 seconds after Vrana's tying goal.
"We got off to a great start, but then they got those two goals and we had to play well in the third to win," Nylander said.
Sweden did just that; it put the game away with two goals in a 2:01 span of the final period.
Kempe made it 4-2 at 5:37 with a power-play goal, and Jacob de la Rose (Montreal Canadiens) capped the scoring at 7:38 when he raced down right wing, cut in on goal and roofed a backhander over Vanecek's glove.
Soderstrom finished with 27 saves. Vanecek made 22 saves.