QUEBEC CITY – Alexander Ovechkin did it all tonight, but most of all, he won the game for Russia with six seconds on the clock, beating Henrik Lundqvist, and making it 3-2 for Russia.
Sweden got an early lead just seven seconds after Dimitry Vorobyev’s penalty ended, on an extended powerplay play when Tony Martensson found Matias Weinhandl open in the slot. Weinhandl turned and banged a wrist shot past Evgeny Nabokov, in the battle of the Vezina candidates.
The intensity of the game didn’t go down after Douglas Murray checked Alexei Morozov out of the game after just ten minutes of play. Murray received a game misconduct for the hit, as did Sweden’s Anton Stralman and Russia’s Ilya Kovalchuk for a fight that ensued.
"I thought it was a clean hit, I hit him on the chest and shoulder area," said Douglas Murray who will now face an automatic one-game suspension.
"We’re all men, and hockey is a tough game. You have to be ready. Anything can happen. You’re battling to be first in the group. I think it’ll be even tougher in the elimination games, because everybody will be hitting," said Alexander Radulov.
With Niclas Wallin suspended and Kenny Jonsson out of the lineup due to back problems, Sweden had only four defensemen for the remaining 50 minutes. Forward Johan Andersson took a step down later in the game, having only one game as a defenseman under his belt, five years ago, in the Swedish second division.
That gave Russia the keys to the game, but instead of capitalizing on Murray’s five-minute penalty, Alexander Ovechkin and Maxim Afinogenov were sent to the penalty box, and the Russian powerplay dried up. Instead, two Russian penalties at the end of the period gave the Swedes a 5-on-3 powerplay to start the second period with. Back on the ice, Ovechkin drew another penalty, his third of the night. Again, Sweden had 5-on-3 powerplay.
The second period was calmer, and the game returned to its original script: Russia attacked, Sweden was waiting for the Russian forwards in the neutral zone, waiting for a chance to strike back.
"I think we stuck to the game plan well tonight, and played as a team, as we were supposed to," said Lundqvist.
At 32:14, Russia got its chance. Alexander Semin delivered the puck to Ovechkin. Lundqvist got a piece of the shot, but dropped the puck and Semin was there to tip it in.
In the last minute, Sweden struck: Jonas Frogren’s shot from the blueline bounced to the front of the net where Martensson was waiting to lift it in for 2-1.
In the first shift of the third period, Swedish acting captain Nicklas Backstrom tripped his Capitals linemate Ovechkin, giving Russia a chance to tie the game on powerplay but Semin’s shot in the post was the closest they got to beating Lundqvist.
That goal did come, a few minutes later, at 44.57, when Sergei Fedorov grabbed Denis Zaripov’s rebound, and dumped it behind Lundqvist.
Sweden seemed to be able to push back the Russians, until their big guns hit. Alexander Ovechkin got the winner, driving frustrated and disappointed Lundqvist to break his stick on the crossbar.
Russian goalie Evgeny Nabokov was happy to be at the World Championship.
"I heard the fans cheering. It was a great atmosphere today," he said.
"Ovechkin, Semin, and Sergei [Fedorov] are our leaders. They are the backbone of our team, and I think they even have to be better, if it’s possible. I don’t know if it’s possible. But "Ovie" was the best player for about seven months! So I think he’s kind of used to it."