Russian domination downs Danes
Despite facing a barrage of shots from a powerful Russian team, reserve goalkeeper Simon Nielsen racked up save after save to help Denmark escape with a respectable 3-1 loss in first-round action at the World Ice Hockey Championships in Stockholm on Wednesday.
Nielsen’s efforts were undermined by another slow start for the Danes, a common theme so far in these World Championships, while the Russians jumped out to a lead after two minutes.
Only two minutes later, Denmark equalised on a Lars Eller pass in front of the crease that deflected off the skate of a Russian defender and slipped past Russian keeper Konstantin Barulin.
The Russians went ahead ten minutes later on a goal by Evgeni Malkin.
The second period opened with Russia continuing to dominate and after six minutes Dmitry Kalinin smashed a one-timer past Nielsen for a 3-1 lead.
The third period, though, was Denmark’s and they had several close chances, including a Frans Nielsen wrap-around that rattled off the post. Despite outshooting their opponents 20-12 in the final frame, the Danes couldn’t get the breakthrough they were looking for and after Nikolai Kulyomin failed to convert a penalty shot, time ran out on an inspired Danish performance.
Nielsen stopped an impressive 49 out of 52 Russian shots, but his surprise performance now gives coach Per Bäckman a selection headache ahead of the next game.
“I felt pretty well mentally prepared,” Nielsen told Ekstra Bladet newspaper. “I haven’t played in 14 days so I was a little rusty during the first 20 minutes, but I’m happy with the second and third periods. I suppose it was an acceptable performance.”
With the loss, the Danes now sit at the bottom of their group after Norway’s victory over Italy and need to pick up points in their last three games versus Germany, Latvia and Norway to avoid relegation from the top division.
Denmark’s next match is against Germany on Saturday.