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Finland falls 4-2 to Russia

Sunday, 11.05.2014 / 4:56 PM / News Articles
By Andy Potts
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Finland falls 4-2 to Russia
Finland falls 4-2 to Russia in opening game.

A game rich in Sochi subplots went the way of Russia, with Oleg Znarok's team getting some revenge for that Olympic disappointment with a 4-2 win that keeps it perfect in the competition to date. Finland, meanwhile, drops to 0-2 and the Olympic bronze medalist now faces some serious pressure if it is to avoid the ignominy of missing out on a play-off spot.

Sergei Kalinin, drafted into the roster in place of the injured Andrei Loktionov, marked his World Championship debut with a goal and an assist to pace Russia to victory, while Alexander Ovechkin scored for the second game in succession as Russia snapped a six-game losing streak against the Finns dating back to April 2013 and including that infamous Sochi stumble.

After another blistering start Russia rode a slight wobble to ease to another convincing victory that further reinforces the team as tournament favourites. It might not be Olympic gold, but claiming the World Championship back from the Swedes would still be a huge boost for Znarok in his first major tournament behind the bench.

For Finland, meanwhile, two games into a tournament that sees the wily hockey professor Erkka Westerlund enrol a new batch of students, there is an urgent need for some extra homework to ensure that an early blip does not grow into a full-grown crisis.

Just as against Switzerland in the tournament's curtain-raiser Russia produced an early goal to delight its vast army of traveling fans - but this time there was an element of controversy as Viktor Tikhonov opening the scoring after 99 seconds. The SKA forward slid his stick between goalie and defender after Mikko Koskinen failed to hold on to Anton Belov's shot from the point. The Finns were incensed, claiming goalie interference as Tikhonov's stick seemed to go beneath the prone stopper; the video official nonetheless ruled it a good goal.

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Things rapidly got worse for Finland. A 5v3 powerplay for Russia took less than 40 seconds to accrue as Ovechkin got his second in two games with a powerful shot that surprised Koskinen at his near post. At that stage Russia led the shot count 10-0 and looked set fair to rack up a second convincing victory following its opening 5-0 thrashing of Switzerland.

However Finland has always been determined to make things tough for Russia, and delights in disrupting the Red Machine with an in-yer-face physical game. On this occasion Tikhonov took the bait, penalized for hooking, and the powerplay allowed Juuso Hietanen a couple of sighters from the blue line before he found his range at the third attempt, ripping a wrister into the top corner from out in front with Bobrovski unsighted by traffic around his net.

At this stage the Olympic parallels briefly began to resemble Russia's game against Slovenia. On that occasion Russia raced into an early 2-0 lead but eased off rather than putting the opposition to the sword and was rather flattered by its eventual 5-2 winning margin.

But three incidents either side of the first intermission swung the game decisively in Russia's favour, even if Finland bench was left feeling the officiating had short-changed the team. First Petri Kontiola, a key man on the first line, was handed a 2+10 for roughing after an altercation with former Traktor Chelyabinsk team-mate Evgeni Kuznetsov right before the hooter.

Then, with Finland enjoying a powerplay early in the second, Vadim Shipachyov felled Pekka Jormakka with what looked like a blind-side hit. Jormakka was stretchered off while Westerlund questioned the lack of a penalty call on the Russian forward.

Finally, Olli Palola's stumble on his own blue line let Nikolai Kulyomin in for the 3-1 goal - a shorthanded strike that left Finland dazed and put Russia in complete control as Koskinen continued to have trouble defending his near post.

There was more to come: Kalinin, the 23-year-old Avangard Omsk forward who was only added to the roster on the morning of the game, delivered an instant return to make it four, slapping home a Danis Zaripov pass and improve to 1+1 in his tournament debut.

Jere Karalahti, the oldest Finn to play at a World Championship at the age of 39, clawed it back to 2-4 late in the second when he unleashed a laser of a shot past Bobrovski to claim his first goal at this arena since January 2012, when he was playing for Dynamo Minsk in the KHL.

That inspired Finland to take the game to Russia in the final session, but despite racking up shots on Bobrovski's goal - including a few more howitzers from Hietanen - there was no way back.

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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 49 32 11 6 146 130 70
2 NSH 47 31 10 6 145 112 68
3 STL 47 30 13 4 153 115 64
4 CHI 48 30 16 2 151 112 62
5 WPG 50 26 16 8 140 127 60
6 SJS 49 26 17 6 137 135 58
7 VAN 46 26 17 3 124 118 55
8 CGY 49 26 20 3 140 127 55
9 LAK 48 21 15 12 133 129 54
10 DAL 48 22 19 7 152 157 51
11 COL 49 20 18 11 128 141 51
12 MIN 48 22 20 6 131 138 50
13 ARI 48 17 25 6 111 161 40
14 EDM 49 13 27 9 113 162 35

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Ladd 50 17 23 9 40
B. Little 50 18 20 9 38
B. Wheeler 50 13 23 10 36
D. Byfuglien 50 12 21 8 33
M. Perreault 47 17 14 0 31
M. Frolik 50 10 17 6 27
M. Scheifele 50 7 20 3 27
E. Kane 35 10 12 3 22
A. Lowry 49 6 9 3 15
J. Trouba 34 5 9 4 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Hutchinson 14 5 2 .932 2.00
O. Pavelec 12 11 6 .911 2.52
 
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