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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 NSH 62 41 14 7 188 147 89
2 ANA 63 39 17 7 186 176 85
3 STL 61 39 18 4 190 152 82
4 CHI 63 37 21 5 183 150 79
5 WPG 63 31 20 12 174 170 74
6 VAN 61 35 23 3 174 162 73
7 MIN 61 32 22 7 173 160 71
8 LAK 61 29 20 12 164 157 70
9 CGY 62 33 25 4 175 160 70
10 SJS 62 30 24 8 173 177 68
11 COL 62 27 24 11 166 179 65
12 DAL 62 27 25 10 195 207 64
13 ARI 62 20 35 7 137 210 47
14 EDM 62 18 34 10 142 206 46

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
B. Little 63 24 26 9 50
A. Ladd 63 20 30 12 50
B. Wheeler 61 16 28 12 44
D. Byfuglien 63 15 26 6 41
M. Perreault 56 18 18 3 36
M. Scheifele 63 10 25 4 35
M. Frolik 63 13 19 3 32
D. Stafford 57 10 17 -18 27
J. Tlusty 53 13 10 -17 23
E. Kane 37 10 12 -1 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Hutchinson 18 7 5 .920 2.29
O. Pavelec 13 13 7 .909 2.60
 
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