If this is how all three games are going to be played on Rivalry Sunday, we are in for a great day of hockey.
Russia built a 3-1 lead on the Czech Republic thanks to a pair of goals and an assist from the Penguins Evgeni Malkin
, then withstood a furious final push from the Czechs down the stretch to post a 4-2 victory.
Russia’s victory gives them a 2-0-1 record following the preliminary round, securing the top seed in Pool B and the accompanying bye into the quarterfinal round.
Unable to generate much offense in Thursday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Slovakia, Russia head coach Slava Bykov elected to move Malkin on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
The move jump-started the Russian offense and fueled their defeat of the Czechs.
Malkin opened up the scoring in the first period with Russia on the power play. Pavel Datsyuk slid a rebound to Malkin at the bottom of the right circle, and the Penguins superstar was able to sneak a shot past the blocker of Czech netminder Tomas Vokoun.
Tomas Plekanec tied the score, 1-1, late in opening period on a 5-on-3 power play. Viktor Kozlov gave the Russians the lead for good, 2-1, with a turnaround goal at 14:34 of the second period.
Malkin increased the Russians’ lead to 3-1 with what held up as the game-winning goal just 1:49 into the third period.
Seconds after Ovechkin knocked the puck from Jaromir Jagr’s stick in the neutral zone, Semin caught up to a puck along the left-side boards. Semin then sent a 60-foot cross-ice pass to Malkin, who beat Vokoun to the short side for a second time with a one-timer from the right circle.
Milan Michalek brought the Czechs within one before Malkin made a backhand pass to Datsyuk at center ice to spring him ahead for an empty-net goal.
Malkin’s three-point afternoon gives him a tournament-leading five points (3G-2A) through his first three games.
Russia will be off until Wednesday when they hit the ice for the quarterfinal round.
Later on Sunday night, first place in Pool A is on the line when the United States battles Canada at 7:45 p.m. In the nightcap, Finland and Sweden square off for the top seed in Pool C. That contest begins at 11:55 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on MSNBC.