QUEBEC – Jannik Hansen was quick to see the positive side of Denmark’s 4-1 loss to powerhouse Russia at the IIHF World Hockey Championship on Tuesday.
“We can’t complain about the results, 4-1 against Russia is a small victory for us,” said the Danish forward, a Vancouver Canucks prospect. “Last year we lost huge to them so this is a step in the right direction.”
The Russians, who hammered Denmark 9-1 at the 2007 world tournament in Moscow, dominated the Danes in a 4-1 victory to improve to 3-0 in the preliminary round.
Maxim Afinogenov, Alexander Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov and Konstantin Gorovikov scored for Russia while Kim Staal replied for Denmark.
Danish goaltender Patrick Galbraith kept his team in the game as the Russians peppered him with 43 shots.
Playing in his first world championship, Galbraith called the chance to go head-to-head with the Russian stars an awesome experience.
“Once in a lifetime, but it was great, it was a lot of fun,” he said. “I was going to save the puck but I had to give it back.”
Mikhail Biryukov made 19 saves for Russia as the offensive chances were few and far between for Denmark, which slipped to 1-2.
“It came in bunches and that’s something we need to be a little more consistent with, we can’t go an entire period without creating something in this tournament,” said Hansen.
“But then again, it’s not Russia we’re supposed to beat in these tournaments.”
Atlanta Thrashers sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, who picked up a pair of assists for Russia, says no team can be taken lightly.
“They’re getting better every year, they are a really organized team and they tried to play really defensively against us so it is really tough to score,” Kovalchuk said.
“Most importantly we need to prepare ourselves for the main games in the next round.”
In other scores, the Czech Republic beat Italy 7-2 and Latvia blanked Slovenia 3-0.
The snake-bitten Kovalchuk, who hasn’t scored a goal yet, says every goalie is looking pretty good these days.
“Especially for me, they’re all good because the pucks aren’t going in,” Kovalchuk said. “But we’re winning and we need to respect everybody and they were trying their best.”
Afinogenov opened the scoring at 10:38 of the first period, beating Galbraith with a wrist shot.
While Galbraith was making save after save, Denmark didn’t record its first shot of the game until 14:55 of the first.
It would take the Danes nearly as long in the second to get a shot at the net, a long clearing attempt from their own zone at 12:02 that was easily handled by Biryukov.
A better third period allowed Denmark to finish the contest with 20 shots on goal.
But the Russians took control of the game in the second when fan favourite Ovechkin scored his second goal of the tournament on the power play at 8:07. His one-timer that beat Galbraith in the five-hole would be the eventual winner.
Fedorov, who drew an assist on the Ovechkin goal, scored one of his own on a tipped point shot on the power play later in the second that appeared to be knocked down by a high stick.
The goal went to video replay but inconclusive evidence let the ruling on the ice stand.
“It was not a goal, I could see it from the bench and the Russian players acknowledged it,” said Denmark coach Mike Sirant, a Winnipeg native.
“We could have started the third period down only 2-0, but that’s the way it goes … but it was nice to get a goal at the end of the game, our players deserved to get that as a small victory in itself.”
The goal was Fedorov’s first at a world championship since 1990, when he last played in the tournament for the Soviet Union.
Gorovikov added a goal in the third for Russia before Staal countered for Denmark, much to the delight of a few hundred Danish fans in attendance who began parading around Le Pepsi Colisee. Attendance for the game was 8,609.
The Danes have just two players with American Hockey League experience. Morten Madsen is a Minnesota Wild draft pick who played with the Houston Aeros this season while Hansen suited up for the Manitoba Moose.
Also on the roster is Lars Eller, a St. Louis Blues first-round draft choice and the highest-ever drafted Danish player at 13th overall in 2007. He spent this season in the Swedish Elite League.
The Russians started Biryukov in goal after starter Alexander Eremenko was lost to a knee injury in a 5-4 overtime win over the Czech Republic on Sunday.
The Russians have been using Quebec Remparts goaltender Kevin Desfosses in practice.
Former Remparts star and Russian forward Alexander Radulov reached out to Desfosses after the Russians found themselves with one healthy netminder.
Russia has added San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who will join the team in Quebec City.
The Russians have also boosted their blue-line with the addition of Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens and Fedor Tyutin of the New York Rangers, who were not in the lineup on Tuesday.
Czech Republic 7 Italy 2
At Quebec City, Radim Vrbata had two goals while Tomas Kaberle added three assists as the Czechs hammered overmatched Italy.
Martin Erat added a goal and two assists for the Czechs, while Jaroslav Hlinka, Patrik Elias, Marek Zidlicky and Filip Kuba also scored.
Luca Ansoldi and Nicola Fontanive replied for Italy.
The game had no effect on the Group D standings, as the Czechs had second spot sewn up and the Italians were already bound for the relegation round.
Latvia 3 Slovenia 0
At Halifax, Edgars Masalskis made 17 saves and Latvia advanced to the qualification round with a shutout win over Slovenia.
The Slovenians finished 0-3, and will head to the relegation round.
Aleksejs Sirokovs scored twice for Latvia, with Aleksandrs Nizivijs adding another goal.
Slovenian goalie Robert Kristan made several tough saves, finishing with 35 overall.