After opening the competition with three straight wins to begin the preliminary round, the Latvian national team suffered its first two losses of the tournament over the weekend. Latvia was handed a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Sweden on Thursday, the first time it failed to find the net all tournament after outscoring the opposition 8-2 through the first three games, and came up on the losing end of a 5-3 decision to Team USA on Saturday.
Andrew Copp scored off an end-to-end rush to break a 3-3 tie with 3:22 remaining in regulation and Team USA held on for the come-from-behind win.
UNITED STATES (5), LATVIA (3)
The Latvians seemed primed to remain undefeated early on Saturday, having earned a two-goal lead on two separate occasions. Teodors Blugers opened the scoring in the first period and Kaspars Daugavins scored to make it 2-0 seven seconds into the second. After former Buffalo Sabres draft pick J.T. Compher scored for Team USA to cut the deficit in half, Oskars Cibulskis' power-play goal made it 3-1 Latvia.
Team USA would storm back to tie the game prior to the second intermission, however, with goals from Nick Bjugstad and Johnny Gaudreau. That set the table for Copp's end-to-end goal late in the third. With Latvia making their own late push to retie the game, Dylan Larkin netted an empty-net goal to cap the scoring for the U.S.
The loss dropped Latvia to fourth place in the Group A standings while USA took over sole possession of first entering play this week. The Americans also have a one-point advantage over undefeated Russia by virtue of their five regulation victories. The Russians, however, remain the only team to remain unbeaten in this year’s event and have outscored the opposition 27-5, which includes a 10-1 rout of Italy during the first week of competition. Russia also has a game in hand with a head-to-head matchup awaiting the two teams on Tuesday.
For Zemgus Girgensons and Janis Sprukts, though, the loss adds pressure for Latvia’s final two games of the preliminary round. Latvia now sits in fourth place with crucial matchups against Evgenii Dadonov and Russia today at 2:15 p.m. and host-country Germany still on the docket. Only the top four teams in each group advance beyond the preliminary round. Today’s matchup between Latvia and Russia can be seen live on the NHL Network.
RUSSIA (6), SLOVAKIA (0)
The Russians, meanwhile, continue to make their presence felt having gone a perfect 5-0-0 through their first five games of the tournament. One of those wins, however, came in overtime, keeping them one point back of Team USA.
Russia hasn’t allowed more than three goals-against in a single game throughout the tournament and own a plus-22 goal differential entering the week. The Russians are also coming off back-to-back shutout victories over Denmark and Slovakia, outscoring them 9-0 over the two games, and haven’t allowed a goal against since May 8 against host Germany. The power-play is tops among all teams, scoring 10 times on 19 man-advantage situations.
Additionally, Russia owns the top scorers in the tournament in Artemi Panarin and Vadim Shipachyov, who each have 10 points. Shipachyov also leads all skaters with eight assists in five games. The Russians also have the top netminder in Andrei Vasilevski, who’s played every minute of the tournament thus far, and leads all goaltenders in wins (5), shutouts (2), goals-against average (1.05) and save percentages (.952).
Dadonov currently ranks fifth on the team in scoring with six points (3+3) in five games. He also leads all Russian skaters with two game-winning goals and ranks third with 17 shots.