Great goaltending and committed team defence can take you a long way. That isn’t always Russia’s formula for success, but the Sbornaya withstood a stiff Czech test on Monday in Bratislava, prevailing 3-0 with a stellar shutout from Andrei Vasilevski.
Sergei Andronov, Nikita Gusev, and Nikita Zaitsev scored for Russia, which leads Group B with three consecutive wins. Czech Republic goalie Patrik Bartošák also delivered quality saves as shots favored Russia 28-23. Yet on balance, this was Vasilevski’s showcase.
A Vezina Trophy finalist for the second straight season and Best Goalie at the 2017 Worlds, Vasilevski struggled with a 3.83 GAA and 85.6 save percentage when his top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning were swept in the first round of the NHL playoffs by Columbus. However, the 24-year-old is right on top of his game now.
The Russians also killed off four Czech man advantages with aplomb, which definitely contributed to the first Czech loss at these Worlds.
Despite the amount of firepower on the ice, Russian-Czech confrontations sometimes turn into tactical chess matches. Even though the checking was tight, these teams were fired up. Various retired stars, like Ľubomír Višňovský, the second highest-scoring Slovak defenceman in NHL history after Zdeno Chára, showed up on the big video cube, and the Czech-heavy crowd of 9,085 roared.
At 13:02, Andronov opened the scoring, rushing into the high slot and one-timing Dinar Khafizullin’s feed under Bartošák’s glove hand for his first of the tournament. The 29-year-old Andronov, the CSKA Moscow captain and a 2018 Olympic gold medalist, is playing his third consecutive Worlds.
With Yevgeni Malkin off for hooking late in the first period, the Czech power play went to work but had no luck. The Czechs have only scored once with the man advantage at this tournament, during the 7-2 romp over Norway.
Near the three-minute mark of the second-period, the Russians came within a hair’s-breadth of their second goal, with Kucherov powering in to push the puck under Bartošák’s right leg. However, defenceman Filip Hronek, who scored the first two goals against Norway, swept the puck out of the crease just before it could trickle in.
The Czechs were penalized for too many men on the ice, but both of the very talented and very expensive Russian power play units proved as ineffective as their opposition counterparts.
Alexander Ovechkin had multiple shot attempts that went nowhere. He has led the NHL in goals eight times, including this year’s 51-goal campaign with his Washington Capitals. Ovechkin, a three-time world champion in his thirteenth Worlds, went goalless in five games when the tournament debuted in Slovakia in 2011.
Past the halfway mark, Bartošák had the fans chanting his name when Gusev set up Kucherov for a great chance on a 2-on-1 break. However, just moments later, the same deadly duo hooked up again,. This time, Gusev dropped the puck for Kucherov inside the Czech blue and went to the net, where he got it back and got a backhander past the Czech netminder at 12:35.
With under five minutes left in the middle frame, Vasilevski saved the day when Tampa teammate Mikhail Sergachyov made a bad giveaway in his own zone that Czech forward Dmitri Jaškin picked off. Jaškin sent veteran Jan Kovář in alone, but Vasilevski coolly made a blocker save.
The Czech storm raged around Vasilevski’s cage before the buzzer sounded, but the big goalie, who won Worlds gold in Belarus in 2014, proved good as gold.
Nearing the six-minute mark of the third period, Tomáš Zohorna launched a high backhander off Vasilevski’s left post, and he and the Czech fans engaged in a premature celebration. Then during a mid-third period Czech man advantage, Vasilevski’s quick left foot foiled Dominik Simon’s bid to tip in a Jakub Voráček feed. The goalie was coming up bigger than the collected works of Tolstoy.
Things got chippy late in the game. Ivan Telegin shoved Hronek to the ice after a race for the puck in the Czech end and Hronek hacked his leg. Both got unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. You could feel the emotion.
From inside his own blue line, Zaitsev sealed the victory with an empty-netter with under a minute to play.
It was a good installment in a classic IIHF rivalry. En route to gold, the Russians also defeated the Czechs 3-0 in last year’s Olympic semi-finals. The two sides have only met once in a World Championship final, with the Czechs pulling off a 2-1 upset against an Olympian-loaded Russian team in Cologne in 2010.
Next up, the Russians face Italy on Wednesday, while the Czechs battle Latvia on Thursday.
13:02 – 🇷🇺 GOAL – Andronov (Khafizullin, Telegin)
16:30 – 🇷🇺 PEN – Malkin, hooking
24:00 – 🇨🇿 PEN – team, too many players
27:39 – 🇷🇺 PEN – Andronov, tripping
32:35 – 🇷🇺 GOAL – Gusev (Kucherov)
33:01 – 🇨🇿 PEN – Kovář, interference
40:54 – 🇷🇺 PEN – Telegin, holding
48:52 – 🇷🇺 PEN – Anisimov, roughing
56:54 – 🇷🇺 PEN – Telegin, unsportsmanlike conduct
56:54 – 🇨🇿 PEN – Hronek, unsportsmanlike conduct
59:04 – 🇷🇺 EN GOAL – Zaitsev
59:04 – 🇨🇿 PEN – Hronek, unsportsmanlike conduct 10 min. misconduct
W: 🇷🇺 Vasilevski (23-23)
L: 🇨🇿 Bartošák (25-27)
SHOTS ON GOAL
🇷🇺 5+15+8 = 28
🇨🇿 8+8+7 = 23
🇷🇺 Goaltenders: Ilya Sorokin, Andrei Vasilevski. Defence: Vladislav Gavrikov, Dinar Khafizullin, Nikita Nesterov, Dmitri Orlov, Mikhail Sergachyov, Nikita Zadorov, 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), Ivan Telegin.
🇨🇿 Goaltenders: Patrik Bartošák, Šimon Hrubec. Defence: Radko Gudas (A), Filip Hronek, Jan Kolář, Michal Moravčík, David Musil, Jan Rutta, David Sklenička. Forwards: Filip Chytil, Michael Frolík (A), Dmitrij Jaškin, Jan Kovář, Dominik Kubalík, Ondřej Palát, Michal Řepík, Dominik Simon, Jakub Voráček (C), Jakub Vrána, Hynek Zohorna, Tomáš Zohorna.
|🇷🇺 RUSSIA (C)
(+ 20 ties)
|First IHLC Meeting (RUS vs. CZE)
🇷🇺 URS 4-0 TCH 🇨🇿 – 02/27/1955 – WC – Krefeld 🇩🇪
|Previous IHLC Meeting (RUS vs. CZE)
🇷🇺 RUS 4-1 CZE 🇨🇿 – 05/05/2019 – CHG – Brno 🇨🇿
|Last IHLC Game
🇷🇺 RUS 5-0 AUT 🇦🇹 – 05/12/2019 – WC – Bratislava 🇸🇰
|Next IHLC Game
🇷🇺 RUS 10-0 ITA 🇮🇹 – 05/15/2019 – WC – Bratislava 🇸🇰