Russia’s power play led the way as the Red Machine cruised past Norway in the opening game of the 2019 World Championship in Bratislava.
Yevgeni Dadonov (2) and Nikita Kucherov punished the first three Norwegian penalties of the afternoon to open a 4-0 lead by the midway stage as the much-hyped Russian offence showed why it could be a fearsome force at this tournament. Without ever running away with the shot count, the quality of the openings fashioned by Russia’s forwards meant it was a rough start to the championship for Peter Thoresen’s Polar Bears.
The crowd of 7,698 for Friday’s first game was swelled by a large contingent of travelling Czechs running the rule over another Group B contender before their evening game against defending champion Sweden. They rooted enthusiastically for Norway early on and worked hard to drown out any efforts to get Russian chants rolling around the Ondrej Nepala Arena, but it would take more than that to inspire a stubborn but workmanlike Norwegian team to an upset.
Things might have gone differently if Norway had converted a chance during the early sparring. Patrick Thoresen, a wily old campaigner with plenty of experience of Russian hockey from his two Gagarin Cup-winning campaigns, stole the puck in front of Andrei Vasilevski’s net. The veteran attempted to set up Sondre Olden, but his shot lacked conviction and the Norwegians could not capitalize on the rebound.
After that fifth-minute alert, it was largely one-way traffic. Mathis Olimb, once of Jokerit Helsinki in the KHL, tripped Ilya Kovalchuk on halfway. The resultant power play lasted just 12 seconds. Nikita Kucherov sent the puck to Yevgeni Malkin behind the net and Geno placed an inviting pass onto the slot for Dadonov to rifle home a ninth-minute opener.
Russia then killed a penalty of its own, with Norway tantalized by a puck that bounced around in front of Vasilevski without anyone to apply a finishing touch, before extending its lead. Artyom Anisimov led a breakaway that seemed to have come to naught, but the Blackhawks centre remained alert to the developing play. When Mikhail Grigorenko fired in a low shot, Anisimov popped out from behind the net to take the puck off Henrik Haukeland’s pads and put a backhander on the top shelf.
The first period ended with the tempo dropping right down, something which apparently did not please the Russian coaching staff. Despite an early penalty on Malkin, Ilya Vorobyov’s team began the second stanza at a high tempo, steadily racking up the pressure on Norway. Pressure brought penalties, and that in turn brought goals. First came Kucherov, taking a feed from his Lightning team-mate Mikhail Sergachyov and wiring a wrister from the top of the circle to end an extended spell of pressure and make it 3-0.
Barely 90 seconds later, Norway transgressed once again and Russia produced a speeded-up replay of its opener. This time Nikita Gusev played the Kucherov role and found Malkin behind the net, from where the Pittsburgh man once again delivered an inviting feed for Dadonov to add a fourth. From puck drop to red light, the play took just two seconds; Russia’s PP improved to 3 for 3.
Norway was gutsy and did its best to take the fight to Vasilevski wherever possible. But there was only one clear chance in the middle frame when Tobias Lindström was sent surging into the Russian zone and looked to beat the Tampa Bay goalie on the stick side. Vasilevski read the shot and got a blocker to it, snuffing out that opportunity.
The game was won inside two periods, but Russia continued to push for goals and that third line of Kucherov, Anisimov and Gusev continued to impress. A slick spell of swift passing around the Norwegian zone had the defence in a spin; Gusev took the shot and while KHL’s leading scorer in regular season play did not hit it as cleanly as he would have liked he saw it wobble past a frustrated Haukeland to make it 5-0.
The 24-year-old, who spent last season with TPS in Finland, faced a difficult afternoon and, at one point, found himself facing down five Russian forwards. When Russia got its fourth power play of the game late in the final frame, Vorobyov took the chance to continue an experiment seen in recent Euro Hockey Tour games. Rather than return once more to the Malkin-Dadonov combo, the Russian coach sent out five forwards – Kaprizov’s line with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov plus Kovalchuk and Dadonov. Norway survived that examination and managed to kill a penalty for the first time in the game.
And there was more for the Scandinavians to celebrate in the closing minutes when Thomas Valkvæ Olsen blasted a well-deserved consolation goal with four minutes left. Jonas Holøs, another time-served KHLer, smashed home another late in the game to make the final score 5-2 – and send a reminder that while the Russian offence is powerful, its defence may yet give opponents a chance.
08:27 – 🇳🇴 PEN – Olimb, tripping
08:39 – 🇷🇺 PP GOAL – Dadonov (Malkin, Kucherov)
09:04 – 🇷🇺 PEN – Orlov, tripping
14:33 – 🇷🇺 GOAL – Anisimov (Grigorenko, Orlov)
20:24 – 🇷🇺 PEN – Malkin, slashing
27:08 – 🇳🇴 PEN – Nørstebø, slashing
28:13 – 🇷🇺 PP GOAL – Kucherov (Sergachyov)
29:45 – 🇳🇴 PEN – Haga, hooking
29:47 – 🇷🇺 PP GOAL – Dadonov (Malkin, Gusev)
41:26 – 🇷🇺 GOAL – Gusev (Kucherov, Khafizullin)
49:09 – 🇷🇺 PEN – Kovalchuk, tripping
53:21 – 🇳🇴 PEN – Olimb, tripping
56:07 – 🇳🇴 GOAL – Valkvæ Olsen (Reichenberg)
57:47 – 🇳🇴 GOAL – Holøs (Martinsen)
W: 🇷🇺 Vasilevski (25-27)
L: 🇳🇴 Haukeland (22-27)
SHOTS ON GOAL
🇷🇺 9+9+9 = 27
🇳🇴 7+6+14 = 27
🇷🇺 Goaltenders: Alexander Georgiev, Andrei Vasilevski. Defence: Vladislav Gavrikov, Dinar Khafizullin, Nikita Nesterov, Dmitri Orlov, Mikhail Sergachyov, Nikita Zaitsev. Forwards: Sergei Andronov, Artyom Anisimov, Alexander Barabanov, Yevgeni Dadonov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Gusev, Kirill Kaprizov, Ilya Kovalchuk (C), Nikita Kucherov, Yevgeni Kuznetsov, Yevgeni Malkin (A), Alexander Ovechkin (A), Sergei Plotnikov.
🇳🇴 Goaltenders: Henrik Haukeland, Henrik Holm. Defence: Alexander Bonsaksen, Christian Bull, Stefan Espeland, Jonas Holøs (C), Johannes Johannesen, Erlend Lesund, Mattias Nørstebø. Forwards: Kristian Forsberg, Michael Haga, Tommy Kristiansen, Tobias Lindström, Andreas Martinsen, Sondre Olden, Mathis Olimb (A), Alexander Reichenberg, Mats Rosseli Olsen, Martin Røymark, Patrick Thoresen (A), Mathias Trettenes, Thomas Valkvæ Olsen.
|🇷🇺 RUSSIA (C)
|First IHLC Meeting (RUS vs. NOR)
🇷🇺 URS 11-3 NOR 🇳🇴 – 02/21/1958 – EX – Oslo 🇳🇴
|Previous IHLC Meeting (RUS vs. NOR)
🇷🇺 RUS 3-2 NOR 🇳🇴 – 04/30/1992 – WC – Bratislava 🇨🇿
|Last IHLC Game
🇷🇺 RUS 4-1 CZE 🇨🇿 – 05/05/2019 – CHG – Brno 🇨🇿
|Next IHLC Game
🇷🇺 RUS 5-0 AUT 🇦🇹 – 05/12/2019 – WC – Bratislava 🇸🇰