Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival will be going up against Blueshirts forward Artem Anisimov
as both players pursue gold on Sunday at the IIHF World Championship tournament in Cologne, Germany.
Rozsival and the Czech Republic upset Sweden with a remarkable 3-2 comeback victory in Saturday's first semifinal, which went all the way to an overtime shootout. Anisimov and his Russian teammates then held off host Germany 2-1 in the second semifinal, setting up a gold-medal game showdown between two of hockey's most bitter historic rivals.
|Fans of Team Russia celebrate the game-winning goal by Pavel Datsyuk late in the third period of the Russians' 2-1 win over Germany on Saturday. |
Russia will be going for a third straight gold medal, while the Czechs will be looking for their first gold since 2005. Rozsival and Anisimov are now both assured of winning their first World Championship medals, because the loser of Sunday's game will take home silver. Also on Sunday, the bronze medal match will pit Germany vs. Sweden.
This will mark the fifth time in the past six World Championship tournaments that a member of the Blueshirts roster or prospect has won the gold. Should Russia prevail, Anisimov would become the third straight Russian Ranger to claim the gold.
Germany was nearly the story of the tournament on Saturday. Taking an early 1-0 lead over Russia, the Germans kept it a 1-1 game until just before it appeared destined to go to overtime.
Detroit Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk got the game-winner for Russia with 1:50 remaining in the third period, breaking the hearts of a spirited German team that was going for perhaps the biggest upset in its nation's hockey history.
Datsyuk scored on a 3-on-1 rush after Germany turned the puck over to him at the Russian blue line. Skating through the neutral zone on left wing, the Red Wings star considered a pass across to Evgeni Malkin before blasting a shot past German goalie Robert Zepp to give the Russians their 27th consecutive IIHF World Championship victory dating back to 2008.
Skating on Russia's fourth line with Nikolai Kulemin of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Maxim Afinogenov of the Atlanta Thrashers, Anisimov saw only 4:23 of ice time in the game and was not used in the third period, when the Russians were pressing for offense. He skated 2:38 in the first period and 1:45 in the second.
Anisimov's opportunity to play was also limited by the early loss of his linemate Kulemin, who was thrown out for boarding Korbinian Holzer while killing a penalty just inside the blue line in the defensive zone at 11:26 of the first period.
Kulemin's major gave Germans a 5-on-3 for 49 seconds, plus an additional 4:11 of power-play time, and after killing off the 5-on-3, Russia dug itself into an even deeper hole when Alexei Emelin was called for hooking at 14:32.
Germany went back to a two-man advantage for nearly two full minutes, and with 56 seconds remaining in it, Marcel Goc of tne Nashville Predators scored for a 1-0 lead that stood up through the first 20 minutes.
Goc's goal, scored at 15:30 of the first, came off the rebound of a Christian Ehrhoff shot that was deflected by Felix Schutz.
Russia had tied the game at 11:07 of the second period, as Pittsburgh star Malkin scored off assists from Sergei Gonchar and Ilya Kovalchuk.
In the Czechs' win on Saturday, former Rangers draft pick Jan Marek, now a star in the KHL, scored the decisive goal in the shootout, and goaltender Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers stifled Swedish league scoring ace Tony Martensson to send the Czechs into the championship game.
Defenseman Karel Rachunek, a former teammate of Rozsival's with the Rangers, scored the game's most important goal with only eight seconds left in the third period. With Vokoun pulled for an extra attacker, Rachunek fired home a shot that made it 2-2 and set off an exuberant celebration by tyhe Czechs.
|Czech Republic players celebrate their 3-2 victory over Sweden in the IIHF World Championship semifinal game on Saturday at Cologne, Germany. |
Sweden outshot the Czech Republic 35-32 over the 70 minutes of regulation and overtime, which shaped up as a goaltending duel between Vokoun and Jonas Gustavsson of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Vokoun finished with 33 saves, while Gustavsson had 30.
Rozsival continued to log major ice time, leading the Czechs with 25:38 of ice time. He was relied upon heavily in the overtime, skating 4:24 of the 10 minutes. He also had shots on goal in both the third period and overtime, finishing with a plus-1 rating.
Johan Harju gave Sweden a 1-0 lead on a power play at 8:29 of the opening period, just 18 seconds after Jakub Klepis was called for hooking. Ottawa's Erik Karlsson and Linus Omark, the Edmonton draftee who spent last year in the KHL, assisted on the goal.
The Czechs pulled into a 1-1 tie at 17:28 of the first when defenseman Tomas Mojzis scored off assists from Lukas Kaspar and Tomas Rolinek. Rozsival was on the ice for the goal by his defense partner Mojzis.
Sweden went ahead 2-1 with an even-strength goal at 11:25 of the second period. Andreas Engqvist got the goal from Martensson and Phoenix Coyotes first-round draft pick Oliver Ekman Larsson.
Through two periods, the Swedes were outshooting the Czechs 25-16, but Vokoun was keeping his team in the game, stopping 13 of 14 shots in the middle period alone.
The wild third period featured a strong show of emotion from former Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr, who protested a penalty at the 11:12 mark. Looking to avoid a hooking call, Jagr let go of his stick, but he was penalized for deliberately throwing it into the Swedish skater's path.
Jagr furiously argued the call, but the Czechs killed the penalty, and Jagr nearly tied the game with a slick spin-o-rama move that was stopped by Gustavsson during a delayed Swedish penalty just after Jagr came out of the box.
The Czechs called timeout with 1:46 remaining and pulled Vokoun for an extra attacker. Sweden held off the pressure until an icing call with only 14 seconds left forced a final faceoff in the Swedish zone.
Swedish coach Bengt Gustafsson called timeout to set up a clearing play, but his team could not control the ensuing faceoff, and the puck went behind the net, where Jakub Voracek passed it back to Rachunek at the top of the slot. Rachunek unleashed his blast with eight seconds remaining to force overtime.
Neither team scored in the overtime, which saw the inspired Czechs outshoot the Swedes 7-2.
The game went to the shootout, where Vokoun stopped Sweden's first shootout, captain Magnus Johansson, before Lukas Kaspar scored on a tricky backhand that went between Gustavsson's pads and just inside the post to give the Czechs a 1-0 lead after one round.
Sweden responded with a goal from Omark, a blast through Vokoun's pads to start the second round, but Marek came right back to score, and Vokoun denied Martensson to end it.