International Ice Hockey Federation

Anders Lee goal the difference

No secrets today as USA wins Group

Published 16.05.2017 19:28 GMT+2 | Author John Sanful
Anders Lee goal the difference
COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 16: USA's Anders Lee #27 with a scoring chance against Russia's Andrei Vasilevski #88 while Dylan Larkin #21 looks on during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Today’s next to last Preliminary Round contest in Cologne had the look and feel of a World Championship medal game as Team USA defeats Russia 5-3.

The Americans didn’t hold back as they started the game taking the attack to the Russians, knowing they would have to win in regulation to win Group A. Perhaps for the first time in the tournament Russia was facing a team that could skate with them and match their creativity.

"It's a big win, it's pretty special to win and to come top of the pool," Johnny Gaudreau said. "It's one of the goals we set at the start of the tournament and play well in the medal rounds. It's a great win, I think we grew as a team today. It was a great effort."

To start the game, Nick Bjugstad stole an errant pass by Vadim Shipachyov in the offensive zone and hit the post before the puck went out of play at 1:10. Further American pressure was applied throughout as they would outshoot Russia 16-3 in the period.

Russians were uncharacteristically undisciplined in the first period taking five minors.

Artyom Zub was called for high sticking Brock Nelson and that got the American power play going. There was good puck movement and big Anders Lee was camped out in front of the net to provide a screen and generate chances down low. On a few occasions, he got to rebounds or accepted passes in the crease and tried to jam pucks home but goaltender Andrei Vasilevski was up to the task.

Team USA enjoyed more of the same opportunities when Nikita Kucherov was called for slashing. Lee would get a few more chances there but, again, unable to convert. It was vintage Lee, using his body as he did this season with the New York Islanders to cause a disruption in front of the goaltender.

"Everyone has a role on this team on their lines and on the power play and mine is to get in front of the net," Lee said of his success today. "When we work together we feed off each other's effort and good things can happen."

It is safe to say the Russians experienced more pressure in their zone than any other game thus far in this tournament. Despite having only one shot on goal at the time, Russia scored on its second at 12:29 when Nikita Gusev sped through the neutral zone to take possession and went in on a break as Connor Murphy and Danny DeKeyser trailed behind.

Gusev spared fancy for practical, sending a shot high over Jimmy Howard’s glove side. Bogdan Kiselevich was there with the assist.

A Russian man advantage with Charlie McAvoy in the penalty box was canceled out when Sergei Plotnikov was called for a high sticking double minor. 

On another chance Russia’s Sergei Andronov found Ivan Telegin who was breaking towards the net as McAvoy’s penalty was winding down. Howard was there to turn the effort aside.

On the kill of Plotnikov’s penalty, Vladimir Tkatchyov provided spirited puck pursuit, disrupting a few USA rushes. Then Jack Eichel took a pass from Johnny Gaudreau and rifled a slapshot on goal that was saved. Eichel is still looking for his first goal of the World Championships. Near the end of the penalty, Telegin was hit by a puck and hobbled to the bench.

The second period saw some of the best end to end hockey at LANXESS Arena. Both teams had optimal scoring chances and the Americans came back three times. An increased number of turnovers on both sides led to quality chances and five goals being scored in the period. This was certainly fun for spectators but probably aged both coaching staffs.

USA scored one minute into the second on the power play as Kevin Hayes picked up his first goal. When a Jacob Trouba’s shot was saved, Brock Nelson attempted a pass to Hayes that was deflected by a Russian defender but still found its target. Hayes promptly potted the chance.

Russia began to apply more pressure themselves and forced several turnovers that resulted in scoring chances. Russia nearly went ahead when Kucherov forced a turnover and Artemi Panarin gathered the puck and sent it to with puck to Vladislav Namestnikov whose shot was stopped.

Russia retook the lead when Sergei Andronov separated Brady Skjei from the puck and found Anton Belov at the point for a shot. Belov’s goal at 7:33 made it 2-1.

McAvoy saved a potential breakaway by Yevgeni Dadonov by diving head first to break up the play. If Dadonov went in uncontested he could have put his team up by two.

Turnabout was fair play when Nelson captured an errant pass by Belov then finding Dylan Larkin who turned the puck from backhand to forehand and scored. Belov giveth and then taketh away.

When Connor Murphy was called for interference, Gusev scored his second goal. Initially, the Americans had the puck in the Russia zone but Christian Dvorak could not work it deep. When Russia regained the puck Dadonov fed Shipachyov for a two-on-one with Gusev going the other way. The power play goal made it 3-2 for Russia.

With the crowd of 18,756 comprised mainly of Russia enthusiasts, the Americans would contend with fan support as well as a surging team on the ice.

But all was even again when Ivan Provorov’s lost control and Bjugstad gained control, found Gaudreau who fired a pass to Hayes alone in front. Hayes took his time and scored his second of the game.  

As time wound down, the Americans needed to gain the lead to have a chance of finishing atop the group. An overtime win would not help.

With Yevgeni Kuznetsov in the box for slashing, Lee finally scored off a nice redirection in front of a pass as Team USA grabbed the lead for the first time in the game. 

Russia nearly tied it as Panarin tied up Noah Hanifin, who was winding up for a shot, and stole a puck and went in on a breakaway but Howard remained poised, cool and the score remained 4-3. 

Nelson's empty net goal capped a thrilling afternoon at LANXESS arena. This was a big test for the Americans and they passed with flying colors. 

"Every game is tough but we proved to ourselves in a week's time that we can come together and be a competitive hockey team." Lee said of how Team USA is playing. "When all 23 guys are going we are a really good team."

Russia finishes second in the group heading into the quarterfinals.

"It was tough because we spent so much of the game shorthanded." Gusev said. "We couldn't create enough chances. I can't really be happy about my goals because we didn't win the game. The Americans are quick, they pressed us all through the game."