Russian forward posts 2+2, sinks Slovenia
Oleg Znarok made several changes to his line-up after the opening 6-2 win over Norway, adding trans-Atlantic arrivals Yevgeni Malkin, Nikolai Kulyomin and Vladimir Tarasenko, giving Sergei Shirokov his first game of the tournament after injury ruled out Danis Zaripov, and putting Konstantin Barulin in goal ahead of Sergei Bobrovski.
But it was SKA St. Petersburg forward Dadonov, fresh from a 15-goal Gagarin Cup haul, who led the way ahead of the newly-arrived NHL stars on Russia’s roster. He scored two and assisted two as the defending champion eased to a 2-0 record thanks to another quickfire start.
However he wasn't entirely happy with the game. "It's good that I managed to score a couple of goals but in general we made too many mistakes," he said. "We need to learn from that."
Dadonov’s first contribution was a thing of beauty, transforming defence into attack in the blink of an eye with a diagonal pass from blue line to blue line. Club-mate Ilya Kovalchuk accepted the gift and got his shot away from the top of the circle despite the attentions of Ken Ograjensek.
The second came just 36 seconds later and, in contrast with the first, was a classic example of winning ugly. Luka Gracnar, recalled to Slovenia’s net ahead of Robert Kristan, gave up a big looping rebound off Viktor Antipin’s shot. Klemen Pletnar tried to side-foot the puck to relative safety behind the net, but his luck was out as Kulyomin forced his way onto the slot and bundled the disk over the line in an almighty scramble.Continue reading
Just as against Norway, Russia had powered into a winning position before the opposition had the chance to get into the game and Slovenia was left hanging on. Sergei Mozyakin wrestled a sight of goal for him but fired over, Dadonov should have worked Kracnar harder from close range off Vadim Shipachyov’s pass. Slovenia looked anxious every time the puck reached its zone, and not even a power play could help the outsider establish a position in the face of disciplined fore-checking.
Inevitably Russian pressure told. The first power play of the day for the Red Machine was duly converted by Dadonov after he found space to fire home Artemi Panarin’s pass from behind the goal and register his first marker at a World Championship.
Once again the potent trio of Dadonov, Panarin and Shipachyov had struck, maintaining its devasting form from the KHL season. "Of course it helps that we've been playing together all year," the forward added. "We already know each other, we already know what to expect."
That contrasted with Viktor Tikhonov's experience. Only cleared to play at the last minute after recovering faster than expected from injury, he found himself on a hastily assembled line with Tarasenko and Sergei Shirokov. "It was the first game [of the competition] for them and that made things a bit harder," Tikhonov said. "We created a few chances and we might have scored but we know that we can't just rely on one line to get all our goals. It's a team game and we all need to contribute."
Slovenia’s slim hopes rested on reprising Norway’s second-period rally – and Anze Kopitar’s first goal of the competition did just that. His shot from the left-hand circle beat Barulin’s glove, although the Avangard Omsk goalie will surely feel he should have kept it out after getting a touch on the puck.
But Russia was in no mood to offer any favours and a superb goal from Vadim Shipachyov made it 4-1 at the half-way mark. Dadonov slipped the puck to Panarin, who took the puck on a circuitous route around Slovenia’s zone before releasing a beautifully weighted cross-ice pass back on to Shipachyov’s stick to thrill the vocal Russian contingent in the CEZ Arena.
Another disappointing effort from Barulin, who was making his first World Championship appearance since 2012, saw Ziga Pance reduce Slovenia’s arrears once again but Russia’s goalie came up big moments later to hold onto a stinging shot from Jan Mursak as the defence dozed.
The third period saw Dadonov get his second goal of the game and his fifth point of the tournament, firing home after another combination involving Panarin and Shipachyov. However, Robert Sabolic added a third for Slovenia late on. That goal meant that Russia, once again, failed to step up the punishment after a powerful opening period - identifying a possible weakness that stonger opposition will hope to exploit later in the competition.
While Russia heads to a showdown with the USA, Slovenia's next assignment is against Slovakia. After defeat in its first two games, its players are looking for positives. "We did not play a very good game yesterday [against Belarus] but we played better today," said Anze Kopitar. "Today’s game was definitely not disappointing. We did some good stuff and have to build on that for Wednesday."
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