Russia 2 Canada 0 (0-0, 0-0, 2-0)
Russia won its showdown against Canada – and finally earned a victory over its biggest rival under the guidance of head coach Oleg Znarok.
Saturday’s 2-0 victory, built on a 38-save shut-out from Valery Koshechkin and third-period goals from Nikita Nesterov and Sergei Plotnikov, ended a four-game losing streak for the Russians against Canada: previously under Znarok, the Red Machine had stalled twice in World Championship play, and twice more in the World Cup of Hockey.
This time was a very different affair: the teams met in Moscow for the first time in 18 years, and the line-ups were dominated by KHL-based players. One of those, Linden Vey of Barys, had perhaps the best chance of the first period when he drew a fine, sprawling save from Koshechkin as he looked to score on the wraparound. Indeed, the Metallurg goalie was by far the busier in the opening two periods as the Canadians generated plenty of offense in front of a record-breaking crowd at the VTB Arena in Moscow. Russia’s cause was not helped when Vadim Shipachyov was ejected from the game early on, giving Canada an extended period on the power play.
But Koshechkin proved to be up to the challenge. Canada simply could not score, and eventually paid the price for missed chances. Nesterov fired Russia in front on the power play early in the third and Plotnikov doubled the lead with 10 minutes left.
Not surprisingly, the 34-year-old goalie took the plaudits. Znarok said: “Koshechkin stated a powerful case to be our #1 at the Olympics. He kept us in it today.”
Vladislav Gavrikov reckoned him Russia’s main hero of the game, and Koshechkin took the MVP award for Russia. Tomorrow, against Korea, Ilya Sorokin will get his chance to stake a claim for the starting spot at the Olympics.
Canada came into the game on the back of a 1-4 loss against the Czech Republic on Friday evening. Matt Ellison (Metallurg) scored a power play goal to give the Canadians the lead in the 32nd minute, but Slovan’s Michal Repik tied it up just before the second intermission. In the final frame, Vojtech Mozik (Vityaz) put the Czechs in front before two empty net goals saw Repik and Martin Erat put a gloss on the final scoreline.
Friday’s other game ended in a 4-1 victory for Finland over Korea. The Koreans took the lead, but lost out on goals from Sakari Manninen, Petri Kontiola (Lokomotiv), Jyrki Jokipakka (HC Sochi) and Juuso Ikonen. Saturday’s earlier game saw Sweden overpower Korean 5-1. Again, the Koreans opened the scoring, but again they were overwhelmed. Alexander Bergstrom (Sibir), Anton Lander (Ak Bars), Par Lindholm, Dennis Everberg (just arrived at Neftekhimik) and Andreas Engqvist got the Swedish goals. It all adds up to Russia leading the way in its home Euro Hockey Tour event, with six points from two games. The Czechs are next, with five, then it’s Finland on four, Canada and Sweden with three each and Korea yet to register a win.