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Slovaks advance despite loss to Russia

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
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Rangers forward Marian Gaborik scored his first goal of the 2011 IIHF World Championships on Tuesday, but it wasn't enough for the host Slovaks in a 4-3 loss to Russia to end preliminary-round play at Bratislava, Slovakia.

Former NHL player Alexei Morozov snapped a 3-3 tie with the game-winner at 3:38 of the third period, beating St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Rangers and Team Slovakia forward Marian Gaborik joins Marian Hossa in celebrating his goal vs. Russia at 10:06 of the second period. Gaborik's first tally at the 2011 Worlds tied the score at 2-2.
The Slovaks outshot the Russians 32-31, but could not come up with the tying goal in a third period that included three Russian penalties and a 5-on-3 opportunity for Slovakia.

Despite the loss, Slovakia (1-2-0), advanced to the qualification round by finishing ahead of Slovenia in Group A. The Slovaks will face the Group D winner, likely to be the Czech Republic or Finland, on Friday night in Bratislava.

Gaborik finished Tuesday's game by tying for a team-high with five shots on goal in 16:37 of ice time. Joining a newly formed -- and very potent -- top line that also featured Marian Hossa and Pavol Demitra, Gaborik scored his goal in the second period and tied with Jozef Stumpel to lead all Slovak forwards with 7:36 of ice time over the final 20 minutes.

Morozov, a star for Kazan in the KHL, got the game-winner, but then set off a parade of third-period power plays for the Slovaks when he was called for hooking just over a minute later. Russia's Nikolai Belov managed to give the Slovaks a 52-second 5-on-3 opportunity at the 6:00 mark when he shot the puck over the glass and was called for delay of game.

The Russians killed off the extended Slovak power play, but were shorthanded again at 8:36 of the third when Dmitri Kulikov went off for holding the stick. That penalty was eventually negated when Ladislav Nagy was called for interference at 9:43.

Gaborik scored an even-strength goal at 10:06 of the second period, pulling the Slovaks into a 2-2 tie off an assist from linemate Pavol Demitra. His goal seemed to ignite the host nation, which suddenly took command of the game.

Slovakia went ahead 3-2 just under two minutes later on a goal by Nagy at 12:01 of the second, prompting Russian coach Vyacheslav Bykov to remove starter Evgeni Nabokov from the game. Konstantin Barulin, a St. Louis Blues draftee who plays for Mytischi in the KHL, came on in relief of Nabokov and picked up the victory by stopping all 12 shots he faced.

Despite the momentum gained from the Gaborik and Nagy goals, Slovakia took back-to-back penalties -- to Miroslav Satan for hooking at 16:05 of the second and to Tomas Surovy for high sticking at 17:15 -- and paid the price for them. Five seconds after the Russian 5-on-3 ended, defenseman Ilya Nikulin scored his second goal of the game, and New Jersey Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk picked up his third assist, for a 3-3 tie at the 18:10 mark.

The second period ended with the teams tied and Russian outshooting Slovakia 24-22 over the first 40 minutes. In addition to his goal, Gaborik saw 4:10 of ice time and had two shots in the middle period.

In the first period, Russia had jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Alexander Radulov scored off assists from Kovalchuk and former Rangers defenseman Fedor Tyutin just 58 seconds into the first period.

Only 30 seconds after Radulov scored, former NHL star Satan made it 1-1 on a goal assisted by Nagy and defenseman Milan Jurcina of the Islanders.

The Russians went back in front 2-1 with 1:56 to go in the first when Nikulin scored. Kovalchuk and Tyutin picked up their second assists on the first of Nikulin's two goals.

The first period endeed with the Slovaks outshooting the Russians 15-7, but only able to score once on Nabokov, who had 14 stops in the period. Gaborik fired one shot on goal in 4:51 of ice time.

Slovakia opened the second period forced to kill off an early double-minor to Lubos Bartecko, who was called for high-sticking at the 1:43 mark. The four-minute penalty was killed, as was another to Marian Hossa at 4:58 of the second. That set the stage for the Slovaks' second-period surge that began with Gaborik's tying goal.

Through three preliminary-round games, Gaborik led Slovakia with 19 total shots on goal -- eight more shots than Satan, who ranked second on the team in that statistical category.
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