COLOGNE – Germany rocked Russia like a hurricane, making the red machine work for the full 60 minutes, but in the end, Russia had something the Germans didn't: Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin.
Kovalchuk got the first, and Ovechkin the last goal. Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves for Russia. Germany's Christian Ehrhoff scored in his first game in the tournament and goaltender Dimitri Kotschnew turned away 33 Russian shots.
"It was a tight game, and we expected that kind of a game. Germany played good hockey," Viktor Kozlov said.
Russia has a powerful offence in Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Semin, Maxim Afinogenov. Germany doesn't have them, but they do have the backing of the home crowd.
Except that in the game against Russia, the guests were almost as loud.
The “Deutschland” cheers got drowned under “Shaibu” cheers every once in a while, until they picked up steam and, in turn, got the upper hand for a second. The black, red, and gold of Germany mixed with the red, white, and blue of Russia to create a living fan mosaic in the stands.
"The atmosphere was great. There were a lot of Russian fans, too," said German captain Marcel Goc.
On the ice, Germany put up a valiant fight, outshooting Russia 13-12 in the first period. Semyon Varlamov didn’t have too much trouble turning away all 13 shots, though.
"We knew they'd have the puck more than we, and that's how it went. We played a defensively solid game, made some good plays, and got the puck to the net as much as possible," Goc said.
With six minutes remaining in the first period, Alexander Frolov took a slapshot from the blueline. Alexander Ovechkin tried to deflect the puck in, but missed. However, the puck hit the boards behind the net and bounced back to the front on the other side of the net. Ilya Kovalchuk stepped up and fired a wrist shot to the far post, beating Germany’s goaltender Dimitri Kotschnew for the first time in the game, at 14:20.
Germany created more chances in the second period, but again, Russia scored first when Viktor Kozlov got the puck to Maxim Afinogenov off a faceoff in Germany’s zone. Afinogenov, his back to the sideboards, sent the puck the front of the net, and Nikolai Kulemin deflected it in, through Kotschnew’s five-hole for 2:0 at 6:10 into the second period.
Down, but not out. Cheered by the home crowd, Germany got itself back into the game just as the buzzer signaled the end of the period. Michael Wolf checked a Russian defenceman behind the net, snatched the puck, and sent it to the front of the net. The Vancouver Canucks’ defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, playing in his first game of the tournament, rushed to the net and onetimed a wristshot top-shelf at 19:59.
"They played us tight and they took a lot of emotion from the crowd. They have great fans and they fed off that," said Pavel Datsyuk who joined the team yesterday.
With 10:14 remaining in the game, Ovechkin got the chance he'd been waiting for. Kovalchuk fed him the puck to the slot, and Ovechkin ripped a wrist shot that beat Kotschnew on the stickside, giving Russia a two-goal lead.
Four minutes later, it was a one-goal game again as Alexander Barta grabbed a rebound, and beat Varlamov from the doorstep, at 13:19.
Germany pressed hard with six skaters for the last 45 seconds, but Varlamov stood tall.
"We had our chances. We just need to be a little cooler when we get a chance, but I think we can be satisfied with our performance," said Goc.
Russia is still undefeated in the tournament. The team's next game is tomorrow, against Denmark.
"They're a good team, they've proved it in this tournament. They'll make it tough for us," Kozlov said.
Germany plays against Belarus, tomorrow as well.
"We have to make sure we get mentally ready, that's almost more important than the physical shape," Goc said.