Russia remained undefeated at the 2019 World Hockey Championship and eliminated Team USA in the quarterfinals with a narrow 4-3 win at Ondrej Nepela Arena in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Thursday.
Nikita Gusev and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev registered one goal and two assists apiece, and Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves on 32 shots in the victory for Russia, who advanced to the semifinals with the win.
While Team USA had no shortage of chances throughout the game, Russia was the superior team, and it primarily carried the play by outshooting the U.S. 43-32.
The Americans were under siege from the start, and it took only one minute and seven seconds for Russia to take a 1-0 lead when Gusev deposited a rebound off a shot by Mikhail Sergachev past New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider:
Later in the opening frame, Russia made the United States pay on the power play after a hooking call against Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. Sergachev's shot deflected off Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel and into the back of the net, which extended Russia's advantage to 2-0.
While Russia entered the locker room with a two-goal lead, ESPN's Chris Peters pointed out that the Americans looked much better over the final few minutes of the period:
That slight change in momentum seemed to work to Team USA's favor, as it halved Russia's lead just over two minutes into the second period.
Kane found New York Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei with a perfect pass, and Skjei put his shot off a Russian defender and past Vasilevskiy to make it 2-1:
The Americans had several more quality scoring chances over the course of the period, while Schneider turned away everything sent in his direction.
Team USA was not able to score the tying marker despite several opportunities late in the second, but Peters noted that the elevated level of play gave the Americans a fighting chance to win the third and pull off the upset:
After nearly allowing the tying goal on numerous occasions in the second period, the Russians took advantage of a big mistake early in the third.
Sergachev jumped on a neutral-zone turnover by Team USA and helped spring a two-on-one break, which Kirill Kaprizov finished off a pass by Gusev to make it 3-1:
Just four minutes later, the United States got back within one again when Hughes found Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin, who beat Vasilevskiy with a high shot:
That one-goal margin didn't last long, though, as former Buffalo Sabres forward Mikhail Grigorenko restored the two-score advantage with a goal that was assisted by Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin and Florida Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov.
With time running out for the Americans, head coach Jeff Blashill decided to pull the goalie early, and that move paid dividends when Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat scored from Kane and Hughes to make it 4-3 with just 2:50 left:
The Americans were never able to get closer than that, though, as Vasilevskiy and the Russian defense hunkered down and held the one-goal advantage through to the finish.
The loss brings an early end to the tournament for an American team that had high hopes due to the offensive firepower and depth it possessed. Team USA won bronze last year, and this marks just the second time in the past five years that it failed to reach the semis.
Meanwhile, Russia is back in the semis after losing in the quarterfinals last year, and it will have a chance to play for a medal, which is something it did in each of the previous four years prior to 2018.
As the No. 1 seed, Russia will take on the lowest seed remaining in the semifinals on Saturday.