The Russians were forced to shuffle their lineup again after Arseni Gritsyuk suffered from a mild injury in yesterday's semifinals game against Team Canada. Vladislav Firstov was then back in the lineup as the team's 13th forward, and Larionov also decided to promote Yegor Afanasiev to the first line, swapping places with Rodion Amirov. Between the piping, Yaroslav Askarov got the second start in two days as the Russians battled to return home with their third consecutive medal.
Team Russia had a strong start, pushing the Finns into their zone and not allowing a shot to the opposition for long minutes. After only six minutes, the Red Machine opened the score: Maxim Groshev skated past a Finn defenseman and shot; Kari Piiroinen managed to stop the puck but allowed a big rebound, caught by Ilya Safonov. The Ak Bars forward went to the backhand and put the puck top-shelf for his second tally of the tournament.
The Russians kept on controlling the play, but at the midway mark, Finland started gaining room and had his first shots, but Askarov wasn't too busy as the first period finished with Russia up by one goal.
In the second period, the game started being tenser. The Finns first killed off a penalty after a couple of minutes, then, after several attempts, managed to tie things up. Topi Niemela released a long shot from the blue line, Semyon Chistyakov didn't reach Anton Lundell, and the Finnish captain deflected the shot to send it home for a deserved 1-1 tie. In the tail of the second period, emotions went up as an altercation between Artemi Knyazev and Santeri Haatakka caused the team to play two minutes of four-on-four hockey. The teams exchanged chances, but both goalies managed to stop all the attempts and the second intermission saw the teams tied at one.
At the start of the third frame, however, another deflection was lethal for the Russians when Mikko Petman reached the puck after a blue-line slapshot by Eemil Viro. The Finnish side managed to control the play for most of the period, and with less than seven minutes to go, Vasily Podkolzin was whistled another double-minor penalty for high sticking - just like yesterday in the semis.
"It was my mistake," Podkolzin admitted after the game. "Unfortunately, my stick was a bit high again. I take my responsibility; a captain shouldn't take this kind of penalty; no one should, actually. This loss was a good lesson for us, and I hope that all the guys could jump to the right conclusions."
The Russians killed the penalty, but when Askarov was recalled to the bench for a sixth skater, Team Finland found the empty-netter that sealed the deal when Anton Lunden scored his second of the night. Larionov tried to pull Askarov again, but another empty-net goal fixed the result on 4-1 in the Finns' favor.
"It was a great experience for us," Larionov said after the game. "We have seven players that will be back next year, and we already have a foundation for the future team. The boys are real professionals; they will work hard and have a great tournament next year."
Main photo: Codie McLachlan/Getty Sport/GettyImages.ru