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Author: Brad E. Schlossman (Grand Forks Herald)Date: 12/29/2004
Ovechkin Sparks Russia - Top selection in NHL Entry Draft teams with Wild pick for 7-2 win

2005 U20 World Junior ChampionshipsTHIEF RIVER FALLS - Team Russia coach Sergei Gersonsky said what fans saw here Tuesday night was "typical Alexander Ovechkin."

For fans who wanted to see one of hockey's up-and-coming stars, it was a good thing.

For Belarus, it wasn't.

Ovechkin scored a pair of goals with pinpoint accuracy while leading the Russians to a 7-2 win in Pool A play at the World Junior Championship in Thief River Falls' Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The Russians can clinch at least the second seed with a victory over Switzerland on Thursday. If a win over the Swiss is coupled by a Czech Republic win over the United States by one or two goals, provided the Americans beat Belarus tonight, the Russians would win Pool A.

"I felt we dominated the game," Gersonsky said.

The Russians dominated early, let Belarus back in it for a while, then finished off the heavy underdogs midway through the third period.

Ovechkin, the top pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, gave Team Russia a 4-1 lead after two periods by scoring a pair of goals on perfect shots. Both goals rang off the inside of the post and went in.

"This is very typical Alexander Ovechkin," Gersonsky said. "He has a very fast, precise shot."

Said Ovechkin: "I just took the shot and hit the goals."

But Belarus was still in the game early in the final period.

Belarus cut the Russian lead to 4-2 on a goal by Viachaslau Shypila 43 seconds into the third.

"We let down a little bit," Russian forward Dmitri Pestunov said.

Shortly after Shypila's goal, Belarus went on a 5-on-3 power play for 1 minute, 16 seconds. But Belarus' Vadzim Karaha kicked the stick of a Russian player at the start of the 5-on-3 and was sent to the box.

"That was not a smart penalty," Belarus coach Mikhail Zakharov said. "Then, it was 4-on-3 and we couldn't score."

And once Team Russia got back to full strength, it closed out Belarus with three goals in 1:46. Minnesota Wild draft pick Roman Voloshenko scored the second of his two goals from a near impossible angle to give Russia a 5-2 lead.

A minute-and-a-half later, Alexander Radoulov took a feed from Evgeni Malkin and fired it past Belarus goaltender Stepan Goryachevskikh.

Twenty-one seconds after Radoulov's goal, Alexander Nikulin added yet another for Russia, making it 7-2.

"I'm not sure why it took so long for us to score the goals," Gersonsky said. "We had a lot of opportunities in the second period, and we didn't score. They were bound to come."

The back-to-back-to-back goals were the result of a defensive lapse and good play by Russia. "We didn't do a good job clearing the pucks out of the zone," Belarus forward Andrei Kastsitsyn said. "And our goalie made some bad mistakes."

Added the Belarus coach: "It's not just Ovechkin who has a great shot. All their players are good shooters."

- Brad E. Schlossman

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Related Player Profiles: . A.Kostitsyn A.Ovechkin D.Pestunov
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