Russian power play

The Red Machine downs USA 4-1, wins Group E.

02.05.2009
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PostFinance Arena Berne  Switzerland

Robert Esche, Team USA's Player of the Game, looks on as the Team Russia celebrates taking a 4-1 lead. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHoF-IIHF Images

BERNE – Russia scored three power play goals en route to an impressive 4-1 win over Team USA, and remains undefeated in the tournament. Alexander Radulov and Oleg Saprykin led the charge with a goal and an assist each.

The win also means that regardless of what happens in Russia's last game against Latvia, Russia goes into the quarterfinals as the top-seeded team in Group E.

"We played a fast and aggressive game and I think we controlled the game," said Russian coach Vyacheslav Bykov.

USA got the start it had wished for, when Lee Stempniak’s shot from the let faceoff circle beat Ilya Bryzgalov, and the puck slid through his five-hole to give the Americans a 1-0 lead. Nick Foligno, who carried the puck into the zone and dropped it to Stempniak, picked the assist, as did defenceman John Michael Liles.

Then the Americans, who had played with great discipline in the tournament, got into trouble with penalties. First Colin Wilson took a minor penalty for hooking. It took the Russians just 44 seconds to beat Robert Esche for the first time. Alexander Radulov held the puck on the faceoff circle, to Esche’s left, and sent a hard pass to the far post where Matt Niskanen had missed Oleg Saprykin who had an easy job to send the puck into the net to tie the game. 

"They got three power play goals, and it's a great team," said US goaltender Robert Esche, who was also the team's Player of the Game.

"You always get into penalty problems with teams that are fast, and I think we did a lot of standing around early, but they were flying in the first period," he said.

Three minutes later, Jack Johnson was sent to the penalty box for hooking. Again, Russia capitalized on their power play. Sergei Mozyakin got the puck to Anton Kuryanov, behind the US net. He sent a pass to the front of the net, and Alexander Perezhogin slammed it in for 2-1.

"You got to play the shot all the time, and it looks like they’re shooting all the time and they’re going for the back door. When people don’t pick up the guy at the back door it’s hard. It’s one thing if it’s a pass, but the Russians took full shots to the back door and I thought they really played a great game,” Esche said.

The Americans battled their way back into the game, but at 17:06, Mozyakin took Kuryanov’s drop pass and sent a blistering slapshot which sneaked in under Esche’s arm to give Russia a two-goal lead.

The US penalty troubles continued in the second period when Kyle Okposo got a two-minute penalty for roughing.

He only had to spend 53 seconds in the sin bin. Konstantin Gorovikov got the puck to Saprykin in the slot, he turned around and sent a backhand pass to the left post where Radulov was waiting to one time the puck in for 4-1. It was Russia’s third power play goal of the night, at 21:36.

The US got its chance to rally back when Vitaly Vishnevsky got a game misconduct when he checked Dustin Brown into the boards head first. However, it was Russia that created the best scoring chances during the five minute penalty.

"Our best player was easily and clearly our goaltender Robert Esche," Team USA head coach Ron Wilson said.

"We got off to a good start, but unfortunately we took a few penalties because we weren’t skating. our special teams let us down. The five minute power play opportunity could have been the way for us to get back in it, but unfortunately, we didn’t take advantage of it," he added.

In the third period, Russia made sure that the Americans were kept off the board, and any hopes that USA had of a comeback vanished with two late penalties.

For the US, the next game is on Monday when the team faces Switzerland. Russia takes on Latvia tomorrow.

RISTO PAKARINEN

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