It was the game that Russia hoped it wouldn't need to play - but Oleg Znarok”s team shrugged off the disappointment of Saturday's semi-final loss against Finland to claim the bronze medal against team USA.
First-period markers fr om Slava Voinov and Sergei Mozyakin paved the way for a 7-2 victory that kept the Red Machine among the medals and gave the home crowd something to celebrate.
And there was more success for Ivan Telegin and yet more goals for the reformed SKA line of Panarin, Shipachyov and Dadonov as the host nation signed off with an emphatic win that left fans pondering what might have been.
As against Finland, Russia began strongly and got an early goal. This time, with the traffic in front of Keith Kinkaid’s net proving almost as busy as on the rain-blasted streets around the arena, Voinov's effort from the point found the net through a screen provided by his SKA team-mate Sergei Shirokov.
But this time Russia was able to build on its advantage. An American power play prompted some anxious moments, with Sergei Bobrobsky scrambling across his crease to deny Brock Nelson and Kyle Connor, but the defense held firm.
And then Mozyakin delivered a Russian rarity with the team’s first power play goal in six games. It was a characteristic strike from the Metallurg Magnitogorsk captain, taking Pavel Datsyuk’s pass at the top of the circle and sending a slap shot into the top corner with Kinkaid motionless.
That set Russia on the way to a convincing win, but Roman Lyubimov suggested that things might have been tougher than they looked. “The Americans made it awkward for us at times but we battled hard and got the win,” he said. “We really wanted to give our fans something to cheer because they supported us so well throughout the tournament, and I hope we sent them home happy today even if we didn't make the gold medal game.”
Ivan Telegin has been one of the stand-out performers in this championship for Russia, especially considering he was barely seen as a contender for a spot on the national team roster during the regular season. But a good play-off run with CSKA Moscow saw him drafted into the national camp wh ere his robust presence on offense has reminded the hockey world of the potential that saw him drafted by Winnipeg Jets before injury trouble slowed his development. In the second period he added his fourth goal of the competition to cap a good display of rugged wrestling in the slot. The marker was created by Datsyuk’s immaculate pass across the front of the net, which cut Kinkaid out of the play and left Telegin with a simple finish to make it 3-0.
By now it was party time for the Moscow crowd as Russia added a fourth moments later. The Shipachyov-Panarin-Dadonov combo, so effective in the group phase, served up another breakout goal. Bobrovsky deflected a shot wide, Shipachyov cleared up, Panarin rushed the net and picked out a perfect pass for Dadonov to wrap it up. A frustrated Chris Wideman was left smashing his stick against the crossbar.
But amid the celebrations, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky admitted that the victory was bittersweet. “I've got mixed feelings about this tournament,” he said. “We were under a lot of pressure, there was great expectation around us. Right now it feels like we lost, even though we came out with a medal. At the same time, the guys put up a good fight, we gave everything we could but it wasn't quite enough.”
Frank Vatrano pulled one back for the USA on the power play late in the second stanza but Artemy Panarin quickly responded for Russia. Anton Belov's shot rattled the post and Panarin showed some nifty footwork to control the puck before tapping it into the net.
The third period was something of an anti-climax. The Americans swapped goalies, giving Mike Condon a run-out to finish the tournament, and Vatrano got a second for his team in the 44th minute.
Russia had the final word when Datsyuk robbed Jake McCabe behind the net and fed Mozyakin for his second of the game. Shipachyov wrapped it up in the last minute, rubber-stamping his status as the tournament's leading scorer with six goals and 12 assists. His line combined for 18 goals and 46 points in total, by far and away the most prolific scoring unit in the competition.
But the SKA star wasn't happy with individual honors after the team failed to land the big prize. “We played pretty average in this tournament, even if we did get a bronze in the end,” he said. “My being the top scorer didn't help us win the gold, which is what we wanted to do here. In the end we didn't score enough on the power play, and if we don't take chances like that how can we win World Championships?”