The rosters, the venue and the stage were very different. So was the result.
Unlike in Sochi, Russia had no problem dispatching the U.S. men’s hockey team at the World Championships, crushing the Americans 6-1 in a group-play game in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday.
Alex Ovechkin scored in the first period and added two second-period assists. Viktor Tikhonov, the grandson of the legendary Soviet Union coach, tallied two in a four-goal second period. U.S. goalie Tim Thomas, the only American player with Olympic experience, was pulled after the Russians went up 5-1 in the second.
Russia cruised despite being outshot 39-20.
Russia has now rolled over the U.S., Finland and Switzerland in group play. The U.S. beat Switzerland and Belarus before running into the Russians. Each nation has four more group-play games left before the playoff round, which takes the four best teams from each of the two groups.
The U.S. is coming off a fourth-place finish at the Sochi Olympics, where it memorably beat Russia in group play thanks to T.J. Oshie‘s shootout heroics. Russia disappointed, was eliminated in the quarterfinals and changed national team coaches.
The U.S. roster in Minsk, with zero 2014 Olympians, is not nearly as star-studded as it was in Sochi with the NHL playoffs still going on. Its top skaters include Predators defenseman Seth Jones and Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader, the latter scoring the lone U.S. goal Monday.
The Russian team with many players from the KHL, whose season is finished, also has two NHL goalies, including Sochi Olympian Sergei Bobrovsky. But it was KHL goalie Andrei Vasilevski, 19, who stymied a young U.S. team (average age about 24) with 37 saves.
The U.S. beat Russia 8-3 in last year’s World Championships quarterfinals en route to bronze.