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Tkachyov, Makarov lead Russia over U.S., 2-1

by Mike G. Morreale

Vladimir Tkachyov scored the decisive goal early in the third period and goalie Andrei Makarov made it stand behind a solid 41-save performance as the Russian National Junior Team scored a 2-1 victory over the United States on Friday in Group B action of the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.

Makarov, who was earning his first start in the tournament, made 15 saves in the third period and was named Russia's player of the game. U.S. goalie John Gibson was stellar in defeat with 28 saves.

The victory moves Russia into second place in Group B with five points (one regulation win, one overtime win). The United States, which will next face first-place Canada (six points) on Sunday, drops to third with three points.

The Russians snapped a 1-1 tie 4:10 into the third period when Tkachyov brought the hometown faithful to their feet after he knocked home a rebound off a splendid individual effort from top 2013 draft-eligible forward Varleri Nichushkin.

Nichushkin took possession of the puck in his own end and skated the length of the ice before curling U.S. defenseman Seth Jones deep in the right circle and jamming an attempt on goalie John Gibson. The rebound skittered to Tkachyov in the slot.

The U.S. was pressuring the Russian defense at times in the third, but after Russian coach Mikhail Varnakov called a timeout with 11:28 remaining, the players seemed to settle down. In fact, Gibson was then called upon to make several big saves, including a semi-breakaway attempt off the stick of Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning).

For Makarov, an undrafted free agent signee of the Buffalo Sabres in September, the game is a continuation of the effort he put forth for silver medal-winning Russia at the 2012 WJC. Filling in for Andrei Vasilevski midway through the semifinal round match against Canada last year and then getting the start against Sweden in the gold medal game, Makarov posted a 1-1 record with an 0.88 goals-against average and .979 save percentage.

Defenseman Jacob Trouba, who was named the U.S. player of the game, pulled his team into a 1-1 tie when he ripped a slap shot from the point past Makarov 13:18 into the second. Alex Galchenyuk gathered the puck in the right circle before feathering a pass to Trouba at the point. Trouba's shot appeared to tip off the leg of Russian forward Daniil Zharkov, who went down to one knee to block the attempt.

Gibson needed to make a great save less than three minutes into the second to keep his team within one. Rocco Grimaldi attempted an ill-advised cross-ice pass in the offensive zone that sent Zharkov on a 2-on-0 break in the opposite direction. As Zharkov entered the left circle, U.S. defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere raced back to impede his path to the slot, forcing the crafty Russian to shot a little sooner.

Gibson received some help five minutes into the second when Yaroslav Dyblenko's blast from the right point rang off the short-side post.

The U.S. couldn't take advantage of its first power-play opportunity of the period when Kirill Dyakov was whistled for tripping at 5:12. The Grind Line, consisting of U.S. forwards Blake Pietila, Ryan Hartman and Cole Bardreau, did a great job on the forecheck throughout. The trio played a big role in forcing the Russian penalty late in the period that led to the U.S. goal.

The Russians opened a 1-0 lead just 2:42 into the first when Albert Yarullin one-timed a shot from the left circle off a pass from Nikita Nesterov on the power play. Nail Yakupov also assisted on the goal, which appeared to deflect off U.S. defenseman Jake McCabe in front before eluding goalie John Gibson.

Makarov, an undrafted free-agent signee of the Buffalo Sabres, made an extraordinary save on John Gaudreau less than a minute earlier. Gaudreau broke in 3-on-1 before taking a pass at the right post from J.T. Miller. Makarov slid to his left and denied the U.S. forward with a nifty toe save to keep the game scoreless.

The United States was given a power-play opportunity just 15 seconds after the Russian goal, but could not solve Makarov. The U.S. was fortunate the deficit wasn't greater, as it had to deny the Russians on three other power-play chances, including quick back-to-back opportunities midway through the period.

The U.S. team finalized its roster early on Friday when it opted to keep hard-hitting defenseman Patrick Sieloff. The announcement now gives the United States its required 23-man roster. Sieloff was chosen as the seventh defender over Boston University's Matt Grzelcyk.

Sieloff, selected in the second round (No. 42) by the Calgary Flames at the 2012 NHL Draft, has nine points and 69 penalty minutes in 34 games with the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires this season.

Team USA is now 6-20-0 all-time against Russia.

In other 2013 WJC action on Friday, Sweden scored a 3-2 shootout decision over Switzerland.

Carolina Hurricanes prospect Victor Rask scored the only goal in the shootout to put Sweden in first place with five points in two games in Group A competition. Switzerland, which never trailed in the game prior to the shootout, is second with four points in two games.

Eliot Antonietti had given Switzerland a 1-0 lead 14:04 into the first before Sweden's Sebastian Collberg (Montreal Canadiens) squared the contest 10:32 into the second. Mike Kunzle connected less than two minutes later to give the Swiss a 2-1 lead.

Sweden defenseman Emil Djuse, who is eligible for the 2013 Draft, converted a feed from Rickard Rakell (Anaheim Ducks) 6:14 into the third to even the game, 2-2.

Sweden goalie Joel Lassinantti finished with 29 saves and Swiss goalie Melvin Nyffeler made 36 stops. Lassinantti made three saves in the shootout, including the clincher against Lino Martschini following Rask's clincher.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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