Russia tops Slovakia for gold
HELSINKI -- Russia won the world championship Sunday by defeating Slovakia 6-2.
Alexander Perezhogin, Alexei Tereshenko, Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings and tournament MVP Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored the other goals, with Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals assisting on two.
Russia, the champion in 2008 and '09, returned to the title after finishing fourth last year. It did not lose in 10 games and finished the tournament with a plus-30 goal difference.
"We are the Big Red Machine just now," defenseman Nikolai Kulemin of the Toronto Maple Leafs said. "But without Alex Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk it would be very hard to score all those goals. And Evgeni Malkin, what can you say? He's the best player in the world, for sure."
Malkin led in goals with 11 and points with 19, and led the plus-minus ratings at plus-14, along with teammate Perezhogin.
Datsyuk was another top performer who glued together his colleagues to play cohesively. He talked positively about his prized teammate Malkin.
"He was unbelievable all the way, and deserves all the credit he got. I am happy to play with him again," Datsyuk said.
Topped with seasoned stars who seemed hungry and happy, Russia put on a tremendous final show of skating speed, passing technique and imagination. It was a performance oozing self-confidence.
"I had to remind the team that Slovakia is really good, and that they beat the Czechs and Canada. I'm grateful to my team as they played well, not only in this final but in the whole tournament," coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said.
Malkin, Datsyuk, Ovechkin and Semin did not disappoint anybody. But the play of Alexander Popov, 30, centering Malkin and dangerous winger Perezhogin was sensational, and on the third line Alexei Tereshenko's swiftness stood out.
In its own zone, Russia played a very tight five-man block, with players almost stuck to each other, but moving around as a unit. On offense the players spread to open up spaces, and then again came together to finish off the attack.
Russia did not rely on big names in goal, but Semyon Varlamov, of the Colorado Avalanche took individual honors with a 93.93 save percentage and a 1.70 goals-against average. In the final he had 29 saves, while Slovakia's Jan Laco and Peter Hamerlik combined for 36.
The Russian team might be built with an eye on the Olympics in Sochi in 2014, and Datsyuk was asked about the NHL possibly deciding not to let its players compete.
"That is two years from now, and I cannot say anything about something so far away as I don't even know what happens tomorrow. It is hard to say something about Sochi now," Datsyuk said.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press