World Championships 2014: Days 3 and 4 Recap

Bruce Bennett

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltending prospect Andrei Vasileviskiy shined on Day 4 for Russia, who romped past Team USA in a 6-1 laugher. Kristers Gudlevskis, Richard Panik also took the ice for their respective countries.

Germany (3) vs. Latvia (2)

Kristers Gudlevskis is becoming (or maybe already was?) something of a folk hero amongst the always fantastic Latvian hockey fans:

The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, who you may recall had one fantastic showing the last time he donned a Latvia jersey, stopped 30 of 33 shots faced in a 3-2 Latvia loss to Germany.

Belarus (5) vs. Kazakhstan (1)

Dmitry Korobov saw 20:16 of ice time for host nation Belarus, finishing the game a +1 with two penalty minutes and a single shot on goal.

Switzerland (3) vs. Belarus (4)

Korobov followed up that performance vs. Kazakhstan with 23:33 of ice time in a close victory over Switzerland, including logging over 9 minutes in a contested final frame where Belarus needed a pair of goals to overtake the Swiss. He finished +2 with an assist and two penalty minutes.

Slovakia (3) vs. France (5)

Richard Panik was -1 in 15:59 of ice time and has yet to hit the scoresheet in the tournament. Those worried about Panik's poor plus/minus so far should note that Slovak goaltender Jan Laco made just 22 saves on 26 shots and has not been very good for the Slovaks so far. Jaroslav Janus -- whose NHL rights still belong to the Lightning -- has been dressing as Laco's back-up

USA (1) vs. Russia (6)

The marquee event of this day for Tampa Bay Lightning fans following the Bolts in Belarus featured center Tyler Johnson and Team USA pitted against young goaltending phenom Andrei Vasilevskiy in net, starting in favor of Sergei Bobrovsky who had previously played in Russia's two earlier victories in the tournament.

Russia, looking every bit the more skilled, practiced and prepared team, roared out of the gates forcing USA goaltender Tim Thomas to make a couple of saves on good scoring chances early. Jacob Trouba then went into the box for a trip and Russia cashed in seconds after Trouba came out of the box as Nikolai Kulemin slammed home a rebound for a 1-0 Russia lead and a Peter Laviolette time out.

Team USA pushed back a bit following the time out, putting some pucks towards Vasilevskiy, but the young Russian stopped everything thrown his way in the first as the skaters started to turn the tide back in their favor heading towards the end of the period, when Alex Ovechkin drew a penalty shot call off a hook by Detroit Red Winga defenseman Danny DeKeyser following a neutral zone turnover by Team USA. Ovechkin capitalized on the penalty shot, outwaiting Tim Thomas, to give the Russians a 2-0 lead heading into the middle frame.

Any hope for a better start to the 2nd than they had in the 1st was quickly quashed by an efficient and deadly Russian counterattack, as Alex Ovechkin again created transition offense finding his teammate Viktor Tikhonov streaking to the net for a tap-in goal and a 3-0 Russia lead.

Team USA got one back quickly, however, on a seemingly harmless play, as Jeff Petry threw a puck from the right half-wall near the blue line towards the net where captain Justin Abdelkader redirected it through Vasilevskiy to draw the Americans within a pair at 3-1.

Team USA continued to push following the Abdelkader goal, with a couple of fantastic chances in front of Vasilevskiy, but the Americans failed to capitalize on their mounting pressure or the handful of power play chances they were given in the period with Vasilevskiy continuing to play well.

That's when the dam broke: Jacob Trouba's stick broke following an offensive zone faceoff win by Team Russia, leaving him helpless to stop Evgeny Kuznetsov from putting a loose puck behind a flailing Tim Thomas for a 4-1 Russia lead. Moments later, the quick strike offense of Russia made it 5-1 after another draw in front of Thomas, with a corner battle lost and a quick shot from the slot ending up behind the American netminder, this time off the stick of Sergei Plotnikov.

That chased Tim Thomas, as Peter Laviolette sent David Leggio out to finish the game. The Americans mustered a few good scoring chances -- including a few on a 5-on-3 power play -- but Vasilevskiy stopped everything as Russia carried the 5-1 lead into the final moments of the second, when Tim Stapleton fell down while gliding towards the neutral zone giving Russia a 3-on-0 break. They converted, extending the lead to 6-1, putting the game out of reach.

In spite of a mess of minor penalties called in the final twenty minutes, neither team managed another goal and Russia won with a final score of 6-1.

Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 39 saves on 40 shots (.975 SV%) and was, generally speaking, excellent. He combines rare athletic ability with good size and, at least vs. USA, a near-perfect technical game, making each save look routine. Russia's offense was superb, but for Tampa Bay Lightning fans, the focus certainly has to be on Vasilevskiy.

This quote from the IIHF recap was fun:

Andrei Vasilevski's debut in goal was a successful one, although he admitted to having some nerves to start.
"Of course, I was very nervous. This isn't a (youth tournament) when you just go out there to shoot the puck around. But, as my goalie coach in Salavat Yulayev says, if you are not nervous, it's time to quit hockey. My teammates scored six goals, so it made this much easier on me."

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