Three goals in the second period was the difference as Russia chased American starter Spencer Knight en route to a 5-3 victory over the United States in Group B play at the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton, Alberta on Friday night.
Vasily Ponomaryov scored two goals in the win that gives Russia the first leg up in what is sure to be a tough group that also includes Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Austria.
A last ditch effort in the third period came up just short for Team USA. It was Russia’s first win against the United States at the World Juniors since 2016.
The second period actually started off better for the Americans, with a couple of good chances in the opening minutes. Russia quickly turned it around when Maxim Groshev found Zakhar Bardakov with a breakaway pass, who made no mistake beating Knight making it a 2-1 game.
Once again, the United States responded well with Cole Caufield creating a chance by himself but was not able to beat Yaroslav Askarov.
Cole Caufield breaks out the dangles on a solo effort in the Russian zone pic.twitter.com/XAaJBygSuZ— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 26, 2020
The Predators first-round pick in 2020 made 23 saves in the win.
After the American power play struggled for a second time, Russia took a 3-1 lead when Ponomaryov fired his second of the game on a one-timer from in close. It was the third goal on only nine Russian shots.
Knight’s night ended after when he turned the puck over in his own zone when he was behind the net. Ilya Safonov picked up the loose puck and fired it into the net before the American could get back into the goal.
Dustin Wolf replaced Knight after the 4-1 marker. Knight made eight saves on 12 shots. Wolf was perfect in relief, making 11 saves.
The Americans had the first chance on the power play less than four minutes into the first period when Yan Kuznetsov went off for tripping but failed to get any offensive pressure. In fact, the best scoring chance was by Russia’s Vasili Podkolzin as the penalty expired.
Russia took the lead before the Americans got a shot on goal 8:07 into the game. Ponomaryov tipped an Artemi Knyazev shot that beat Spencer Knight. It was a goal that was emblematic of the start of the game, with Russia’s relentless pressure allowing them to be first on every puck.
Team USA had a strong bounce back with Matthew Boldy and Cole Caufield getting chances, but failing to hit the net.
Cam York tied the game on a shot that snuck through the arm and body of Askarov with just under six minutes remaining in the period. Boldy, who was originally credited for the goal, and Caufield were also involved in that chance.
Originally looked like Cam York's goal but it's credited to Matt Boldy, great set up from Cole Caufield pic.twitter.com/8QQvV1qoLX— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 26, 2020
The Russians were the better team in most of the opening 20 minutes, but could not hold onto the lead. Team USA had a great chance to take the lead shortly after but this time Askarov made a huge save to keep it tied.
Russia would get their first power play chance late in the first period, but it was only slightly more successful than the American effort with their advantage earlier in the period.
The start of the third period would have suited the Russians fine, as the United States struggled to generate anything offensively, and Russia wasn’t pushing the issue with a three-goal lead. The Americans could not adjust to the Russian pressure.
However, the third line for Team USA used hard work to start attacking, and it worked out as John Farinacci put a Drew Helleson rebound past Askarov to make it 4-2. There was some contact on Askarov, but the goal stood.
Team USA continued to push, with the line of Caufield, Trevor Zegras, and Alex Turcotte putting pressure on the Russians, but the shift ended with Yegor Chinakhov stealing the puck off of Jackson Lacombe and having a partial breakaway.
That rush led to an offensive zone penalty for Russia, and the Americans had a third power play chance to cut the deficit. This time they did generate some offensive zone time, but could not beat Askarov.
A last ditch effort in the third period on another power play saw the Americans pull Wolf to make it a six-on-four with less than four minutes left. Trevor Zegras scored with 2:18 remaining to make it a 4-3 game.
Trevor Zegras with his first career WJC goal.— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) December 26, 2020
Imagine this kid shooting like that while passing as he does. Oh my. pic.twitter.com/QhU409QNan
They pulled the goaltender again with a minute remaining, but it was Russia who scored as Chinakhov put the puck into the empty net.
The United States play Austria on Saturday, while the Russians play next on Sunday against the Czech Republic.