Russia virtually out as USA triumphs
The Americans celebrate a big step toward the quarter-finals
In a tight, physical and entertaining May Day affair, the USA beat Russia 3-2 after scoring two goals in the third period, with the winner coming on a shorthanded effort with less than five minutes to play.
On the deciding play, Mike Grier got the puck and decided to take on the Russian defense and skate in toward the net. He got by his man, fired a shot that Russian goaltender Maxim Sokolov had to leave a rebound on, and Chris Drury came in as the third man and put home the easy goal to make it 3-2 for the USA.
"I think our defensive play and forechecking of our forwards at their blueline allows us to catch their defensemen flatfooted," said Grier. "I just took the puck and went wide and pulled it in and Chris was there to put it home." It was a tight, physical game all the way through
After the game, the management of Team Russia filed an official protest with the IIHF, claiming that both the second and third USA goals should not have been allowed due to goal crease violations. The tournament directorate in Ostrava will review the case on Sunday morning.
As it stands, the result means that Russia is in tough to make it to the quarter-finals in Group F. Russia stands pat at two points, whereas the USA now stands at three points and plays Sweden and Denmark in the coming days. Russia has only one game left, a match against Finland. In order to make the quarter-finals, Russia must rely on help from both Sweden and Denmark. This win was as big as they come for the USA, who not only strengthened their bid to get into the quarter-finals, but also lay down their archrival.
Russia is now virtually down and out
Both Russia's Maxim Sokolov and Team USA's Ty Conklin played strong games in goal, stopping 32 and 33 shots respectively. Scoring for Russia were Dmitri Yushkevich and Andrei Bashkirov, while the other USA scorers were Dustin Brown and Ryan Malone.
Tempers started flaring already in the first period and the rough style was present throughout the game.
"We played well, and I think it's a sign that our team is coming together," said Conklin. "Especially the way we played in that third period, being down a goal and getting two back to beat them. I think we're slowly getting to know each other as a team."
Despite several quality chances for both teams, there was only one goal scored in the first period. Almost nine minutes into the contest, Alexander Guskov's errant pass was picked off by Team USA's Dustin Brown, who fired a wrist shot into the far corner past Sokolov.
Moments after, Russia almost roared back as Vladimir Antipov weaved his way through the American defense, but Conklin was there to make the save.
As the period wore on, tempers started to flare and halfway through, the Russians seemed to lose their strong passing game, focusing instead on a more physical style, with simple hockey and battles along the boards. Even Russian Head Coach Viktor Tikhonov got involved, as he and American forward Mike Grier could be seen screaming at each other at one point.
That development of the game only seemed to play in the USA's favor, who got a great chance to make it a 2-0 game on Matt Cullen's wrap-around attempt with eight minutes left, but Maxim Sokolov made a quick lateral move and stopped the shot.
For Russia, Alexander Ovechkin had the best chance of the period when he waltzed in alone in front of the net and let off a high backhand, but Conklin was quick on his feet and took the shot off the Team USA logo on his chest.
The USA had the momentum going into the second period, but when they couldn't score on an early power play, Russia quickly started to take over. It seemed like Russia was using their speed more and more every minute and while the American team became more and more passive. Ilya Kovalchuk, Oleg Tverdovsky and Alexei Morozov all had good chances in front of Conklin before Russia got the equalizer eight minutes into the second.
And it was a controversial goal. Alexei Yashin's wraparound attempt was not completely stopped by Conklin as the puck lay flat just outside the goal line. Searching for the puck, Conklin stepped on it and pulled his leg backwards, ever so slightly. The Russians stormed Conklin's crease and pushed at his leg, placing both the American goaltender and the puck in the net. Referee Vladimir Sindler allowed the goal to stand, as fights broke out around the USA net. Dmitri Yushkevich got credit for the goal.
The momentum continued to swing in Russia's favor in the second period as they made it a 2-1 game with one second to go on a power play. That came after Aaron Miller was sent off for slashing when he broke Kovalchuk's stick with a whack when the youngster was skating in alone on Conklin.
Andrei Bashkirov was credited with a goal after a deflection off a Alexander Guskov shot. Guskov thus got redemption for the mistake that led to Dustin Brown's goal for the American team.
The 6,513 in attendance saw a determined American team step out on the ice for the third period. While scoring chances were hard to come by, the Russians started playing a more defensive style, hoping for quick breaks and counter-attacks. It would not prove successful.
The USA tied the game at 9:54 after a controversial goal of their own. Andy Roach fed a pass back to Ryan Malone in the high slot, who replicated Brown's first goal by firing a shot high past Sokolov's stick side. The Russian team protested the goal as Jeff Halpern had stormed in on net and was definitely in the crease as the goal was scored.
After the tying goal, the Russians became more active again and got a glorious chance to win the game when Hal Gill was sent off for interference at 14:25. But it was not to be. Instead, due to a gutsy move from Grier and some lazy backchecking from the Russian power play participants, Team Russia was dealt a crushing blow.
"We made defensive mistakes," said Russian Head Coach Viktor Tikhonov. "I have nothing else to add."
The American team had little problem killing off the last four minutes of the game, with Russia only managing a single shot on Conklin.
The USA is in action again Sunday, when they will face Team Sweden in the late game. Russia gets a day off before playing a must-win game against Finland.
Im so happy anytime we can beat the Russians is a good day for me