International Ice Hockey Federation

Russia rolls to 5-0 win

Panarin back with three assists

Published 16.05.2017 00:42 GMT+2 | Author John Sanful
Russia rolls to 5-0 win
COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 15: Russia's Sergei Andronov #11 goes hard to the net while battling Latvia's Ronalds Kenins #91 as goaltender Ivars Punnenovs #74 has the puck slip through his legs during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Russia's win over Latvia tonight at LANXESS arena marking their third straight shutout. They remain on top of Group A.

Two goals in the first, two in the second, and one more in the third aided Russia’s sixth win, setting up a showdown with Team USA tomorrow to determine first place in the group. 

Latvia was attempting to reverse a two-game losing streak after winning their first three games in the tournament. Today they would come up far short. Further, Latvia has not beaten Russia in World Championship competition since 2004.  

Russia’s offence remained lethal even with changes in the lineup because of new additions to the roster and injuries. Washington Capitals Yevgeni Kuznetsov and Dmitri Orlov both played their first game of the tournament. Sergei Mozyakin has left the competition after suffering an injury against Germany.

"It helped me a lot to get a game today, it's not easy adjusting from one kind of hockey to another," said Kuznetsov. "Tomorrow's game [with the USA] will feel like a playoff game even though it's still the group stage"

Artemi Panarin returned to the lineup and was again a stellar performer. His three assists paced the attack as he teamed with Nikita Kucherov, who had a goal and two assists, and with Vladislav Namestnikov adding a goal.

Latvian goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, who has been outstanding, was given the night off. Ivars Punnenovs was selected to face down the Russian machine. Punnenovs has represented Latvia at U18 and U20 World Championships but this would be his senior men’s debut. 

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevski is one of Russia’s best players in this group. Coming into the contest he’s racked up four wins in as many games and two shutouts that came in consecutive games. But tonight, he was given a rest and Ilya Sorokin made his first start. He made 24 saves. 

"The main thing was to win this game. We've got an important game tomorrow so we wanted to get through this without any problems," Orlov said after the game. "We didn't allow many turnovers, we tried to keep control of the puck and control the game. I think it worked, Sorokin only faced a couple of difficult moments and he did well with them."

Russia enjoyed numerous early chances. They cycled and passed the puck, working it deep and showing enough energy to keep the Latvians on their toes. Vadim Shipachyov sent a bank pass off the neutral zone boards that just managed to elude defenceman Guntis Galvins and found Nikita Gusev, who collected the biscuit for a backhand shot that went through Punnenovs goal pads just wide.

At 12:10, Russia won an offensive zone draw and Panarin passed the puck to Bogdan Kiselevich who fired a wrist shot that made its way through on goal, hitting Punnenovs, and finding the net.

Sergei Plotnikov enjoyed a commanding first period. Plotnikov shook a defender behind the net, then attempted a wraparound that was stopped. It was his first of three shots in the period. Later, he set up Ivan Telegin at 18:41 for a 2-0 lead. Uvis Balinskis could not control the puck in the neutral zone and it squirted past him to Plotnikov, who skated in two-on-one in the Latvian zone for a shot that was saved. The rebound remained loose under the goaltender in the crease with a sea of bodies in front. Telegin skated towards the traffic in the crease to tap the puck in for his second tournament goal. 

With four seconds remaining in the first, Oscars Cibulskis was whistled for a hooking penalty that would carry into the next period. Latvia did exactly what you shouldn’t do playing against the top ranked power play in the tournament: give them a chance to create with the man advantage.

Fifty-seven seconds into the start of the second, Namestnikov scored on the power play with help from Panarin. 

After being down 7-0 in shots, Latvia reeled off six shots of their own in a five minute span. Sorokin made a few excellent saves along the way. At 10:39 Cibulskis sent a point blank shot on Sorokin, who kept it out with a pad save. Russia has given up a mere five goals in six games. 

At the 19:00 mark of the middle period, Kucherov scored to make it 4-0. And finally when Balinskis was sent off for slashing, Russia scored their 12th power play goal of the tournament when Anton Belov found his scoring touch at 13:17 of the third.

"We didn't ease off in the third period," Orlov said. "We weren't trying to conserve our energy for tomorrow. We were just playing smart hockey."

Russia's game tomorrow against Team USA will decide who finishes first in Group A and gets the chance to play the fourth seed from Group B in Paris. Then the final Preliminary Round game at LANXESS arena pits Latvia against Germany with the winner moving through to the round of eight.