The Canada/Russia Super Series was created to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series, the eight-game series that started the Canada-Russia hockey rivalry that still exists today.
In preparation for the 2007 version, Team Canada players watched a documentary of the series, including Game 1 in Montreal, where the over-confident Canadians jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, only to see the Soviet Union storm back to win 7-3.
In Game 1 of their own series on Monday night in Ufa, Russia, the roles were reversed.
Down 2-0 before the game was even 10 minutes old, the Canadians staged of a comeback of their own, equalizing the game at 2-2 before the end of the first period on their way to a 4-2 win.
Goals by Vyacheslav Solodukhin and Alexander Ryabev appeared to have the Russians on their way to an opening game victory, much the same as 35 years ago.
But Stefan Legein (Oakville, ON/ Niagara, OHL) and Kyle Turris (New Westminster, BC/ Burnaby, BCHL) – on a penalty shot – scored 45 seconds apart late in the opening frame, providing a spark to the Canadians.
“It was tough going in, trying to get our legs,” Turris said following the first period. “All of us are playing our first game of the summer, and it took us a little bit of time to gel, but we finished the period strong. That was one of our goals we had coming in.”
The momentum the Canadians picked up late in the first period translated over to the second, as a pair of 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship gold medalists combined on Canada’s two goals in the period.
Sam Gagner (Oakville, ON/ London, OHL) set up Brad Marchand (Hammonds Plains, NS/ Val d’Or, QMJHL) in the opening minute, while Marchand returned the favour to Gagner with 1:10 to go, sending the Canadians to the intermission up 4-2.
Canada’s shutdown defensive game – a staple of a Brent Sutter-coached team – did the rest, and goaltender Steve Mason (Oakville, ON/ London, OHL) rebounded from a shaky start to stymie the Russians over the final 50 minutes.
“We got off to a slow start, but we wanted to stick to the game plan, and I think it ended up working pretty well,” said Gagner.
Mason had little chance on the Russians’ opening goal – a screen/deflection by Solodukhin – and was handcuffed on Ryabev’s wrist shot from just inside the blueline, putting the Canadians in an early hole.
After good work in the defensive zone, Sutter broke out with the puck and dropped to Legein, who wired a slapshot between the legs of Russian goaltender Semen Varlamov.
Sutter was arguably the best Canadian player on the ice, shutting down Russian superstar Alexei Cherepanov while chipping in with offensive opportunities.
Turris got Canada even 45 seconds after Legein’s goal, converting on a penalty shot. The Phoenix Coyotes draft pick (3rd overall, 2007) froze Varlamov with a head fake before beating him through the legs, much the same as Legein had moments before.
Marchand took a pass from Gagner in front of the net, fought off a pair of Russian defenders and flipped the puck over a diving Varlamov to give Canada’s its first lead at 3-2, and Gagner rounded out the scoring by spinning away from a Russian behind the net, cutting in front and sliding the puck five-hole on Varlamov, the third Canadian goal to be scored through his legs.
Canada was surprisingly undisciplined, giving Russia 13 powerplays, but the penalty killing unit – in particular Turris, Sutter and defenseman Karl Alzner (Burnaby, BC/ Calgary, WHL) – turned away the man advantage opportunities, including a pair of two-man advantages that lasted over a minute, time and time again.
Alzner was named Canada’s Player of the Game for his defensive work.