MINSK, Belarus – Star forwards Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin scored eight minutes apart to lead Russia to a 5-2 victory over Finland in the final of the ice hockey world championship on Sunday for its second title in three years.
With Russian President Vladimir Putin looking on, Ovechkin tied the game at 2-2 in the second period with a backhand and Malkin wristed a shot high into the roof of the net on a power play for the go-ahead goal. Danis Zaripov also scored a goal and added two assists.
Viktor Tikhonov and Sergei Shirokov scored a goal each.
Putin watched the game sitting next to Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in the stands, as the Russian team gained a measure of redemption following a painful loss to Finland in the quarterfinals of the Sochi Olympics just three months ago. It was Russia’s fifth gold since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.
“It’s great to win it,” forward Nikolai Kulyomin said. “We were all coming here to win. The Russian team is always playing to win.”
The worlds was the first major competition for new Russia coach Oleg Znarok, who has been tasked with reviving the team after the Sochi let-down. Znarok was suspended for the final, however, after making a cut-throat gesture toward Sweden’s assistant coach in the semifinals.
His team cruised through this tournament from the start, winning all its 10 games. The Russians scored the most goals of any team (42) and concede the least (10).
Russia took the lead through Shirokov midway through the first period on a power play, but Iiro Pekarinen levelled just three seconds before the interval.
In the second, Olli Palola scored a power-play goal on a rebound to put the Finns ahead, before Ovechkin and Malkin lived up to their billing as the star attraction of the tournament.
Zaripov added the fourth with a slap shot past Finland goaltender Pekka Rinne on a power play in the third before Tikhonov completed the victory on another power play.
Tikhonov finished as the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals.
“I think winning the silver is an accomplishment,” Finland’s Tuukka Mantyla said. “It was awesome to win something.”
Znarok joined his celebrating players on the ice after the game although the ban officially prevented him from doing that.
Earlier, Sweden beat the Czech Republic 3-0 to claim the bronze.
Joakim Lindstrom scored early and Simon Hjalmarsson netted another one in the opening period for Sweden to take control.
Mikael Backlund rounded off the win with a wrist shot past goaltender Alexander Salak in the third.
“We came here to win the gold,” Lindstrom said. “That was our goal. But the competition is very, very hard, and all in all it was a pretty good tournament for us.”