Team Canada knew they would have the size advantage, and the physical play advantage, going into the Canada/Russia Super Series, but it was their skill that carried them to a 3-0 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday.
Kyle Turris (New Westminster, BC/ Burnaby, BCHL) and David Perron (Sherbrooke, QC/ Lewiston, QMJHL) combined on a give-and-go for Canada’s opening goal, Stefan Legein (Oakville, ON/ Niagara, OHL) – Canada’s Player of the Game – and Brandon Sutter (Red Deer, AB/ Red Deer, WHL) did the same on goal number two, and Perron did it all himself to round out the scoring as the Canadians swept both games in Ufa, Russia and took a 2-0 series lead.
<p>Jonathan Bernier (Laval, QC/ Lewiston, QMJHL) turned aside all 23 shots he faced to record the shutout, continuing the strong goaltending started by Steve Mason (Oakville, ON/ London, OHL) in Canada’s 4-2 Game 1 win on Monday.
The Canadians dominated the final two-and-a-half periods of Game 1, and continued that dominance in the opening 20 minutes of Game 2, outshooting the Russians 11-4.
Sutter set the tone early in the period when he steamrolled Russian superstar Alexei Cherepanov in the Canadian zone, as Canada’s checking line of Sutter, Legein and captain Milan Lucic (Vancouver, BC/ Vancouver, WHL) continued to smother Russia’s top players.
The physical play contributed to a much more emotional game than the series opener, with a number of skirmishes after the whistle.
“You knew things were going to heat up,” Legein said. “Emotions are running high, but you have to try to not get involved too much, and just play your game.”
The Canadians were rewarded for their constant pressure in the opening 20 minutes when Turris fed the puck in the corner to Perron, who outwaited a Russian defender before returning the favour to a streaking Turris. The Phoenix Coyotes draft pick (3rd overall, 2007) pulled the puck to the backhand and beat Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for his second goal in as many games.
The Canadians were unlucky not to increase their lead in the first and second periods, as a number of quality chances went unfinished in front of Bobrovsky, including numerous chances by the line of Sam Gagner (Oakville, ON/ London, OHL), Brad Marchand (Hammonds Plains, NS/ Val d’Or, QMJHL) and Claude Giroux (Hearst, ON/ Gatineau, QMJHL), who controlled the puck in the Russian zone for more than a minute during one shift.
After their physical play gave the Canadians the advantage early, the checking line chipped with some offence in the final minute of the second frame, as Legein finished off a give-and-go with Sutter by snapping the puck short side over the glove of Bobrovsky.
Looking to increase the lead to three early in the final period, the Canadians once again kept constant pressure on the Russians in their own zone, but could not beat Bobrovsky, who played well in making 35 saves.
Perron put the final nail in the Russian coffin with just 2:01 to go, picking up a loose puck at the Canadian blue line and steaming around the Russian defender, taking the puck to the net.
Although his first opportunity was turned away by Bobrovsky, the St. Louis Blues first-rounder (26th overall, 2007) somehow found a way to backhand the puck into the goal, even with his back to the net, scoring undoubtedly the goal of the series thus far.
Both teams will now pack their bags and head east to Siberia for Games 3 and 4 in Omsk, set for Friday and Saturday, before returning to Canada for the series’ final four games.
The game had to be delayed twice – once in the second period and once more in the third – because of a build-up of fog on the ice. The arena in Ufa is brand-new, having opened for Game 1 on Monday, and the air conditioning system in the building is not yet functioning.
“It’s hard to play in the fog,” Legein said, “but you just have to deal with it, and hopefully it goes away.”