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Worlds recap: Nikita Kucherov leads the scoring race with William Nylander close behind

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Playoff hopes for team Slovakia are almost gone.

Germany v Slovakia: Group A - 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Slovakia Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

With the NHL season over for the Tampa Bay Lightning, we will try to focus on several Lightning players who are representing their countries at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. Over the next two weeks, we are going to keep you up to date with their performance at the tournament, not forgetting about highlights from other games too.

Team Russia

After victories against Norway and Austria, Russia faced their first serious opponent when they played Team Czech Republic on Monday. Some minor changes were made before this game. Kirill Kaprizov moved to the fourth line and played the game as the 13th forward. There were some rumours that Alex Ovechkin was unsatisfied with his partner, that’s why Alexander Barabanov became the new linemate to Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Russia took the lead in the first period. The Czechs had some chances but Vasilevskiy didn’t let them score. Team Russia scored again in the second period after a brilliant play by Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Gusev, who have outstanding chemistry this tournament.

Russia controlled the rest of the game. Nikita Zaitsev scored an empty netter on the last minute of the game when Czechs pulled the goalie. Vasilevskiy got his first shutout with 23 saves in Slovakia.

The next opponent was team Italy who are probably the weakest team at the Worlds. Before the game against Russia, they lost all three games with an overall score 0-20. No surprise that the game against Russia went in the same way.

Before the halfway point of the first period, Kucherov already had two assists on Nikita Zaitsev and Dinar Khafizullin goals. Ovechkin scored for the first time at the tournament before the end of the first period.

Eventually, the Russians destroyed the Italians 10-0. Nikita Kucherov and Evgeny Kuznetsov both scored 4 points. Vasy got his second shutout in a row, but the Italians were very close to finally scoring a goal, hitting the crossbar twice at the end of the game.

Team Russia leads Group B with 12 points and have already secured a playoff spot. Before the end of the group stage, they will face Latvia, Switzerland and Sweden.

Nikita Kucherov after three games has 10 (3+7) points and leads the scoring race.

Team Czech Republic

Over the last three days, the Czech played just one game against Russia, which was mentioned above. Jan Rutta has been one of the most active shooters among Czech defensemen so far. Over the first three games, he had 10 shots on goal. This is also the second most on the team, only Jakub Vrana has more. Ondrej Palat hasn’t scored yet, but his line with Filip Chytil and Vrana are creating the most chances on the Czech team.

After losing to Team Russia, the Czech Republic are tied for third place in a Group B with Sweden and are facing Latvia today.

Team Slovakia & Team Canada

Slovakia and Canada played probably the most exciting game at the Worlds so far. The Slovaks had a two goal lead twice in the game but both times, the Canadians managed to tie the game. Anthony Cirelli, who’s still playing on the second line, scored an equalizer in the second period

The Slovaks returned to the game in the third period, but with 1:14 minutes till the end of regulation time, Eric Cernak took a penalty for tripping and the Canadians converted their power play on Mark Stone’s shot.

Team Canada are fourth place in Group A and their next opponent is France.

Before the start of the tournament, team Germany were Slovakia’s main opponent for the last playoff spot in Group A. The Germans have won all three game against weaker competition, so the Slovaks needed to win their game against Germany to save their playoff hopes and not disappoint local fans.

Team Germany scored first, but five minutes later, Andrej Sekera tied the game on a 5-on-3 power play.

Moments later, the Slovaks took the lead in the game. Tomas Tatar had assists on both goals.

Slovakia were very close to the win, but once again they didn’t have any luck at the end of regulation time. Marcus Eisenschmid scored with two minutes to go and the game was decided in overtime when Leon Draisaitl scored a game-winning goal.

After four games, Slovakia are in fourth place in Group A and six points behind Germany. They still have a chance to make the playoffs, but those chances are very small. They depend on how many points will be earned against France, Great Britain, and Denmark as well as how many points teams like Canada, USA or Finland will get. To still be in the playoff race, Slovakia need at least one of these teams to lose three more games before the end of the group stage, including losing to some weaker teams, which seems almost impossible.

The Others

The Finland vs USA game was taken as a matchup between Kaapo Kakko and Jack Hughes, future top draft picks. While Hughes is still adapting to competing at the pro-level and playing on a deeper team, Kakko already has five goals in two games and was not afraid to play against experienced players such as Ryan Suter.

Finland tried to make a comeback after trailing to the Americans 0-2 in the first period and managed to tie the game, but it was decided by a Dylan Larkin goal in overtime.

Switzerland remains undefeated at the World Championship, but their next opponents are the Czech Republic, Russia, and Sweden. Nico Hischier has been a very effective player for his team and already has 7 (3+4) points.

Sweden defeated Norway 9-1 on Monday. William Nylander adapted well to his new role on the left wing. He’s already second in the scoring race with 8 (2+6) points.

The standings after Day 6:

The top ten scorers after Day 6:

The top ten goalies by save percentage after Day 6: