Howard, Larkin help U.S. rally past Russia at worlds
Cologne, Germany — The United States came back three times to hand Russia its first defeat 5-3 and top Group A with its sixth straight win at the ice hockey world championship on Tuesday.
Kevin Hayes scored two goals in his second game at the tournament, and Anders Lee earned the match-winner as the U.S. outshot Russia by 35 to 19.
“A great win. We grew as a team today,” forward Johnny Gaudreau said.
They head to the quarterfinals on Thursday, when the U.S. will play Finland, and Russia will meet the Czech Republic.
Finland, playing two-time defending champion Canada later Tuesday in Paris, was sure of finishing fourth in Group B, already topped by Canada, which will play co-host Germany or Latvia in the quarterfinals. They were playing later Tuesday, too.
Switzerland avoided Russia by defeating the Czech Republic 3-1 in Paris to clinch second spot in Group B.
Nick Bjugstad hit the post early on for the U.S. before Artyom Zub was penalized for high sticking, then Nikita Kucherov for slashing, but the Americans failed to make their pressure count.
Nikita Gusev scored on a breakaway with just the Russians’ second shot at 12:29.
With five penalties in the first period, Russian indiscipline was bailed out by their defense, while the Americans were grateful to goaltender Jimmy Howard for a good save on another Russian breakaway.
The U.S. had 16 shots compared to Russia’s three in the first period alone.
Kucherov was still off the ice when Hayes equalized at the start of the second on a power play, scoring from a narrow angle. It was Hayes’ first goal since joining the U.S. following the New York Rangers’ elimination from the NHL playoffs.
Russia captain Anton Belov scored minutes later after Sergei Plotnikov sent the puck back, but Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin equalized on another Brock Nelson assist.
U.S. captain Connor Murphy was penalized for interference and Gusev claimed his second on the power play — on a counterattack when the understrength Americans were attacking — leading to an evident surge in Russian confidence.
But Hayes scored again to tie the game at 3 going into the third period.
Frayed tempers led to a punch-up in the third, before Yevgeni Kuznetsov was penalized for slashing.
This time, the U.S. capitalized. Jack Eichel sent a long pass to Gaudreau, who found Lee free to score from close range.
Another moment of indiscipline from Kuznetsov, this time for blatant interference, dented Russian hopes, though Howard had to make another big save to deny Artemi Panarin the equalizer on a breakaway.
Russia went for broke, but Nelson sealed it for the U.S. with an empty net goal with 22 seconds remaining.
Earlier, Sweden defeated Slovakia 4-2 to finish third in Group A for a quarterfinal with Switzerland. Slovakia finished second to last in the group ahead of relegated Italy.
Despite only having 17 skaters available, Belarus defeated Norway 4-3 to finish on a high in Group B. Belarus finished second from bottom, above relegated Slovenia and a point behind Norway, which finished two points behind co-host France.