Ufa, Russia – The host Russians were given a scare in their opening game of the world junior championship on Wednesday.
They needed overtime to defeat Slovakia 3-2 when Albert Yarullin’s shot beat netminder Adam Nagy with 10 seconds remaining in the five minute bonus.
“They played really well and it was the first game for us,” said Mikhail Grigorenko, who plays for the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts. “We weren’t ready for that kind of game from them.”
Russia going to overtime means it only gets two points in the standings instead of three for regulation win. That lost point could loom large later in the round-robin.
Slovakia tied the game on the power play when Maxim Shalunov took a four-minute penalty for a high stick that drew blood. There were 34 seconds left when Richard Mraz sent the game to overtime and quieted the boisterous partisan crowd.
“Sometimes these things happen and you just have to deal with them,” said Shalunov via a translator regarding his costly penalty.
Shalunov was redeemed when Yarullin’s shot from the point beat Slovakian netminder Adam Nagy. Nagy did a good job of keeping the Russians at bay with 34 saves.
“We were a little bit nervous,” said Grigorenko. “But we were still hoping that we were going to win this game. We needed a good (penalty kill) and we (got it).”
Slovakia will now face Canada, who handily beat Germany in their opener 9-3, to put them atop the Pool B standings. The Russians play Team USA next on Friday as well.