Rangers defensemen Marc Staal
, Michael Del Zotto
, and backup goaltender Chad Johnson
saw their IIHF World Championship medal hopes end on Thursday, while their Blueshirts teammate Artem Anisimov
came out on the happy end of Russia's 5-2 quarterfinal victory over Team Canada at Cologne, Germany.
Staal and Anisimov were the only members of the Rangers contingent to play in the game. Del Zotto, Canada's eighth defenseman, was a healthy scratch, and Johnson served as a backup to starting goaltender Chris Mason of the St. Louis Blues.
|Russian forward Maxim Afinogenov of the Atlanta Thrashers celebrates the game's first goal Thursday. Forward Artem Anisimov of the Rangers was one of Afinogenov's linemates and was on ice for the goal. |
It was a disappointing night for the Canadian team assembled by Rangers legend Mark Messier, who now serves as Special Assistant to Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather.
Messier, in his first run as Team Canada General Manager, was unable to land many top players for the team due to conflicts with the Stanley Cup playoffs and a long season that included a more prominent international tournament in the Olympics.
Using many young, up-and-coming NHL stars such as Staal and Del Zotto, instead of veteran international players, Team Canada missed the World Championship semifinals for the first time since 2002.
Two-time defending gold-medalist Russia, on the other hand, had all of its top talent available for the tournament, including NHL superstars Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk. As a result the Russians won their 26th straight World Championship game, dating back to the start of the 2008 tournament.
Russia outshot Canada 30-27, getting 25 saves from Washington Capitals goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Mason also stopped 25 shots in defeat.
Skating on Russia's fourth line with Nikolai Kulemin of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Maxim Afinogenov of the Atlanta Thrashers, Anisimov saw 10:34 of ice time and was on the ice for the game's first goal by Afinogenov, who was named the Player of the Game. Anisimov also had two shots on goal and was called for a hooking penalty early in the second period.
With the Canadians looking to contain an explosive Russian offense, Staal saw a lot of action in a shutdown role, skating 15:54. He was on the ice for Afinogenov's goal as a power-play tally by Pavel Datsyuk and a third-period goal by Sergei Fedorov.
Anisimov drew the game's first penalty at 6:20 of the first-- a boarding call against Canada's Steve Downie, who hit Anisimov from behind in the right side of the Canadian zone, but the Russians were unable to convert the power play.
Canada later got its first power play chance, when Alexander Semin was called for high-sticking at the 10:52 mark. Team Canada then enjoyed a brief 5-on-3 when Russia's Ilya Nikulin was whistled for slashing while killing the Semin penalty, but the Canadians could not cash in on the extended power play
The only goal of the first period did not come until only 58 seconds remained, when Afinogenov scored off assists from Dmitri Kulikov and Vitali Atyushov.
Afinogenov scored just over a minute after Canada had killed off a Steve Ott roughing penalty despite heavy pressure in the zone.
Anisimov's line came up the ice after the power play and created the goal. The play had started after Anisimov raced back into the corner of his own zone to help clear the puck to a defender and start a Russian rush up the ice
Atyushov skated to the red line and sent the puck ahead to Kulikov, who moved into the Canadian zone and dropped a pass back to Afinogenov. The Thrashers forward skated into the right circle and wound up a big wrister from the faceoff dot that hit Mason and trickled past him into the net just as Anisimov came charging in for a potential rebound.
Russia stretched its lead to 2-0 with the game's first power-play goal, scored on a 5-on-3 at 1:45 of the middle period. The goal unfolded quickly, just when it looked like Team Canada was going to kill off a boarding penalty to Steven Stamkos that had created a 4-on-4 situation to start the second period.
With 16 seconds left in Stamkos' minor and the Russians nearly back at full strength, Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry was called for slashing. Russia won the ensuing faceoff, and the puck came back to defenseman Sergei Gonchar just inside the blueline directly across from Mason.
Gonchar skated down to the top of the right circle and put a pass to Datsyuk down low, just outside the crease to Mason's left. One second after the 4-on-3 became a 5-on-3, the Red Wings star shot it high inside the far post for a 2-0 lead.
With Perry again off for slashing at 16:31 of the second period, Team Russia made it 3-0 on a goal by Evgeni Malkin, assisted by former Rangers defenseman Dmitri Kalinin and Kovalchuk.
Kalinin started the play from just inside the blue line, finding Kovalchuk on his left. Kovalchuk skated down to the left circle and slid a centering pass to Malkin, who swept the puck home exactly halfway thorugh Perry's penalty.
Fedorov gave the Russians a 4-0 lead at 7:31 of the third period, when he deflected in a right-point shot by Vitaly Atyushov.
Canada broke the shutout on an even-strength goal by John Tavares, assisted by Brent Burns, at 13:52 of the third. Tavares had just finished serving a hooking penalty before he scored.
The Canadians pulled Mason for an extra attacker with a full 3:16 remaining, but Evgeni Malkin made them pay with his second goal of the game only 12 seconds after Mason came out of the net.
Matt Duchene closed out the scoring for Canada with 14 seconds left in the third period, as he went end-to-end from his own zone and beat Varlamov with a wrister from the slot.
In other quarterfinals on Thursday, Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival and the Czechs beat the Finns 2-1 in an overtime shootout, Sweden defeated Denmark 4-2, and host nation Germany upset the Swiss 1-0.
Saturday's semifinals will pit Russia against Germany and Sweden against the Czech Republic with the winners playing for gold on Sunday.