The Canadians went to the net all night, causing havoc for Egor Podomatski Both Canada and Russia were playing tonight's game for something, but only Canada got what it was after. With a convincing 5-2 victory at the Elysee Arena in Turku, the still-undefeated Canadians have secured first place in Group F heading into the quarter-finals, which begin on Wednesday.
The Russians are now winless in three Qualifying Round games and must sit by their television sets tomorrow night and hope that the Swiss don't tie or beat Sweden. If that happens, the Latvians are in, and, amazingly, the Russians are going home.
Canada played two lacklustre games against weak opponents in the past week heading into tonight's game against Russia. Russia, meanwhile, lost to Sweden and Latvia, making their situation precarious in terms of qualifying for the quarter-finals. Yet this tight-checking game was overpoweringly dominated by the Canadian defense, which allowed no room for Russian skating and dancing in over the blueline with the puck.
Shane Doan scores for Canada to make it 5-1 "We knew because of the rivalry and the fact that many of those guys have played in North America that it was going to be a physical game and we wanted to prove ourselves," Canadian forward Kirk Maltby said. "We knew these guys had a lot of skill, but they sometimes try to do too much. We knew if we stuck to our game plan and didn't run around in our end we could play well against them."
The top Russian line of Igor Grigorenko-Pavel Datsyuk-Ilya Kovalchuk was all but invisible tonight, in part because of their own strangely uninspiring performance, in part because of Kris Draper's tenacious checking which the Russian threesome couldn't shake. Nor did coach Vladimir Plyushchev feel it necessary to mix his lines at any point. When the Russians did penetrate the Canadian blueline, they had mostly long shots blocked superbly by Sean Burke, who looked virtually unbeatable down low.
"Some players didn't prepare so seriously," Plyuschev scolded. "They went to the sauna or swimming pool instead." Ouch.
The Russians actually took an early lead when Alexander Frolov drifted a high point shot on the power play that eluded Burke. It was easily one of six similar goals scored here in Turku, driving home the point that it's not how hard you shoot--it's getting it on the net that counts.
Soon after, though, the Canadians replied with an extra-man goal of their own. Ryan Smyth, from the corner, placed a perfect pass on Shane Doan's stick, and he didn't hesitate to drive the puck past Podomatski from the slot. Chants of "Latvia! Latvia" filled the arena, as the crowd urged on the Canadians to help oust the Russians in favour of Latvia.
Early in the second, the Russians had two excellent chances when first Alexander Suglobov came in on a breakaway and then Sergei Zinoviev had a point-blank chance, but both were shots that Burke stopped superbly to keep the score tied. A good bit of forechecking a short time later by Doan and a perfect pass to Kirk Maltby gave the Canadians the lead. Maltby took the puck behind Podomatski, and on the wraparound he went high on his backhand, a beautiful shot to make it 2-1.
Daniel Briere counted Canada's winning goal again off a simple wrist shot from the point by Jay Bouwmeester. Briere tipped the puck in past a surprised Podomatski, and the Canadians were thoroughly in control by this point. "(Vasili) Turkovski made some mistakes on the third goal," Plyuschev said. "But it wasn't just him. For the second game in a row, our defence was weak, and I cannot understand why."
If there was any doubt about the outcome, Maltby dispelled that with his second goal of the game, a shorthanded effort as he skated down the right side and beat Podomatski between the legs with a shot the goalie should have stopped. Doan, on another deflection, closed out the scoring for Canada, which coasted to victory by playing virtually impeccable defense. The only lapse was a goal by Denis Arkhipov at 18:01 that beat Burke over the shoulder.
So now, on Wednesday, Canada will play one quarter-finals game--opponent and city to be determined after the Finland-Germany game tomorrow night--while the Russians will play the Czechs in Turku if the Russians advance.
When asked if he'd be cheering for Sweden tomorrow, Plyuschev said simply, "I'm not going to cheer for any team. We have to do things for ourselves. It's not even Russian roulette," he added of their chances to advance. "It's very difficult to sit and depend on the results of other teams."