From start to finish, this game was easily the best of the tournament so far. Russia and Sweden battled for three periods and it ended with a 3-2 win for Sweden. Both teams looked very strong and the medal contenders many predicted them to be. Sweden’s Linus Soderstrom stopped 27 of 29 to pick up the win, while Ilya Sorokin of Russia made 23 saves on 26 shots in a losing effort. Both teams final games will come on Wednesday against Switzerland (SWE) and Czech Republic (RUS.)
After controlling possession early on, Russia got the first power play of the game from a Lucas Wallmark holding penalty. Sweden is able to hold off the Russian power play, not allowing them to do much of anything with the early man advantage. Sweden got a chance in close when Oskar Lindblom ripped a shot right in front of Ilya Sorokin, but the Russian netminder flashed the glove to keep the game scoreless. After some early control by the Russians, it was Sweden who took over, holding Russia in their own end. Close to midway through the first, William Nylander drew a hooking penalty on Rushan Rafikov to send Sweden to their first power play. With the extra man, Sweden opened the scoring. Defenseman Gustav Forsling’s wrist shot from the blue line goes through some bodies, including Sorokin, 1-0 Sweden. Linus Soderstrom was tested for the first time since the opening couple of minutes after Sergei Tolchinski skates around the Swedish zone and fired a back-hander at Soderstrom, but he made the save. More chances came for Russia as they had a 2-on-1, which was broken up, and then Vladislav Gavrikov had a clear shot at Soderstrom, but the Swedish goalie made the save. Russia retook control of the game in the later part of the period, but they could not find the equalizer as the first period ends 1-0. Sweden had the slight shots on goal advantage at 11-9.
Less than a minute into the second period, both Sweden and Russia take penalties. Sweden’s William Lagesson took a hooking penalty, while Russia’s Vyacheslav Leshenko went to the box for embellishment. so there was four-on-four hockey for two minutes but it led to no goals. The ensuing few minutes aren’t full of much, as both sides couldn’t find many quality opportunities. Play opened up near the halfway mark as both teams used their speed on the rush to create chances, especially Nikolai Goldobin and Sergei Tolchinski, but both goaltenders kept the puck out. Sweden would get a power play and a chance to grab a two goal lead when Alexander Sharov went to the box for slashing. However, Russia had other plans and killed the penalty off to keep it a one goal game. With just under six minutes left in the second period, Russia tied the game. Ziat Paigin’s original shot was stopped, but the rebound found Vyacheslav Leshenko’s stick and he potted it, 1-1. The Russians continued to pressure Sweden, but were denied their second goal of the game. Sweden did manage to counterattack and get a couple good looks for their second goal, except Ilya Sorokin stopped them. Right at the end of the period, Russia was buzzing in the offensive zone but the period ended before they could capitalize and the score remained 1-1. The shots were 9-7 in favor of the Russians.
About four minutes into the third, Russia took the lead. Pavel Buchnevich fired a shot from the point, it rebounded off of Linus Soderstrom’s chest and Vyacheslav Leshenko jumped on it and put it home to put Russia up 2-1 in the final period. Russia continued to dominate after goal, hemming Sweden into their own end, but it was Russia who would take a penalty and go to the penalty kill. Ivan Fishenko tripped up William Nylander as Nylander used his speed to get around him, so Fishenko went to the box. It didn’t take long for Sweden to take advantage as Gustav Forsling scored his second goal of the game to tie things up again, 2-2. Russia came extremely close to retaking the lead a couple of minutes later. Ivan Barbashev, wide open in front of the net, has an open net but Linus Soderstrom made the quick right pad save, with the puck nearly crossing the line. Then, when he tried to cover it up, the puck squeaked to the line and was millimeters from going over the line, but after a review, it was ruled the puck hadn’t crossed the line and it remained 2-2 after Ivan Barbashyov came as close to scoring – without actually scoring – as you can possibly get. After that play, there was a scrum behind the net, which led to matching roughing minors for Rushan Rafikov and Anton Karlsson. Even after the long delay, Russia kept coming, with Pavel Buchnevich getting a great chance to give his team the lead but the Sweden defense closed it down. However, it was Sweden who would get the go-ahead goal. William Nylander brings the puck from Sweden’s blue line, into the Russian zone, passed it into the slot for Oskar Lindblom, who spun and made a great pass to a wide open Axel Holmstrom at the side of the net, and he made it 3-2 Sweden. With under five minutes to go, as Russia was pressing, the Russians received a too many men on the ice penalty. Russia does kill off the penalty, but it left them with under three minutes to tie the game. However, Russia can barely get out of their own end with Sweden hemming the Russians into their end and not letting Sorokin leave the net. Sweden nearly scored with Sorokin still in the net as Nylander had a chance at the side of the net, but the Russian goalie made a huge save. With under a minute to go, they finally get to pull the goalie but it was too little, too late as Sweden held on for the 3-2 victory. For the game, Russia held a 29-26 shots on goal advantage.
Sweden did it again. With the win, they’ve now won their last 31 group stage games. While Russia did dominate for a lot of this game, Sweden found a way to win. They defended well, not giving up quality scoring chances, and capitalized on their opportunities (two power play goals on four chances.) Oh, and their penalty kill remained perfect, now sitting at 8-for-8 after killing off the only power play they conceded. At 3-0-0, Sweden has clinched first place in their group with their final game against Switzerland coming on Wednesday. Players that impressed me for Sweden were Linus Soderstrom, Gustav Forsling, and William Nylander.
Russia certainly played well enough to win, but they just couldn’t pull it out in the end. They were on the penalty kill four times and only had one power play. Against a team as talented as Sweden, you just cannot give them that many opportunities. It did come down to some luck, with a bit of skill, on Linus Soderstrom’s big stop on Ivan Barbashyov right in front that nearly crossed the line. An inch or so more, and maybe Russia has the 3-2 win. Russia falls to 2-1-0 and plays the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Russian players I liked were Vyacheslav Leshenko, Nikolai Goldobin, Ivan Barbashyov, and Sergei Tolchinski.
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