Russian special teams plays a big role in wild game against the Swiss
It was a game that on paper you would've brushed over before the first puck drop given the gap between these two teams. If you were lucky enough to tune into this one however, you would've caught quite the contest.
Switzerland got things going real early on in this one, outplaying the better Russian team right from the drop of the puck. Marcus Lehmann got them on the board just 49 seconds into the game with his first of the night, finishing off a great play from the Switzerland offence.
They would follow that with a goal from Valentin Nussbaumer. The two goals marked just the second and third time that a Swiss goal didn't include assistant captain Philipp Kurashev.
Russia would go on to score one from Kirill Marchenko but were very clearly outplayed in the period. The team was outshot 9-7 with most of the action taking place in their end. To make matters worse, they got off to a slow start in the second, leaving Lehmann open to bury his second of the game, restoring the two goal lead.
The lead wouldn't last too long for the Swiss however, as just 21 seconds later Dimitri Samorukov scored a goal, cutting the lead to one.
Later in the period, Switzerland's Janis Moser clipped a Russian skater cutting across the ice and was given two minutes for tripping. On the ensuing powerplay, Alexander Alexeyev was able to put one past Swiss goalie Akira Schmid, tying the game at three. That's when things got wild for both sides.
Already with one shorthanded breakaway on the night, Kirill Slepets found himself in the same situation again with a chance to put his team up by one. His breakaway deke was denied by Schmid, keeping the game tied. This seemed to be the theme of the night for Switzerland, who couldn't manage anything against the Russian penalty kill, giving up more goals against than goals for on the powerplay.
In a bizarre turn of events for the Swiss, they were able to avoid the powerplay all together despite Lehmann being tripped twice on a breakaway. In what can be described as one of the more unusual things you'll ever see on the ice, Switzerland was awarded two penalty shots after Ilia Morozov hauled down Lehmann, gave up on the play, and then hauled him down again.
As per IIHF rules this year, any team that is awarded a penalty shot can choose any player they want to take the shot. Already with two goals on the night, Swiss head coach Christian Wohlwend elected to let Lehmann take his own first shot. He didn't make much of the chance, losing the handle on the forehand before missing the net wide.
Wohlwend took no chances with the second shot, making the decision to go with tournament leading scorer Kurashev instead. He would fare no better, faking out goaltender Daniil Tarasov before shotting one blocker side that was deflected wide of the net. The two misses would prove costly, as the play seemed to suck the energy right out of the Suiss squad.
Before the end of the period, both teams began to grow frustrated, leading to a bit of a scuffle in front of the net. The main Russian in the tussle was forward Ivan Muranov. After he took a shove from one Swiss defender, then proceeded to respond with a butt end to his mid section. Muranov was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for the act. If Switzerland knew what was coming however, they may have declined the powerplay.
It was rather eventful for the 1:35 that remained in the second period, taking them into the intermission to gather their thoughts. It didn't seem to help the Swiss team, as just 2:04 into the third period, Slepets finally converted after forcing a turnover to give the Russians a 4-3 lead.
After a too many men penalty gave the Russians another powerplay goal, Yannick Bruschweiler stepped across the blue line, toe dragged the puck into his feet, and unleashed a missile to bring the Swiss back within one. That was as close as they would get however, as some poor defensive plays in their own end lead to two more Russian goals late in the period, icing any chance they had at a comeback.
It was another close game for Russia, who has struggled to find any sort of consistency in the tournament so far. If they were looking to have any questions answered ahead of their New Years Eve match-up against Canada, then this game definitely didn't do it.
Switzerland on the other hand, left me with even more questions than Russia did. They have shown at times that they can battle defensively with some of the best teams in the tournament, holding Canada to just three goals, and dominating Russia in the first period of this one. They also showed tonight that they may have some depth in their line up after pocketing four goals without any points from team leader Kurashev.
The problem with the Swiss continues to be their special teams play. For a powerplay that was so lethal against team Canada, they were practically non-existent in this one. As I mentioned earlier, they gave up more goals against than they had for on the powerplay, and looked absolutely lost all game. I still believe that they can upset some teams in the playoff rounds, but it all depends on which version of the team shows up.