Canada/Russia Challenge Game Day: 8/13/12

Russia 6 @ Canada 5

D Nikita Nesterov, RUS: 0-0-0, 4 PIM
D Artem Sergeev, RUS: 0-1-1, 2 PIM
G Andrei Vasilevski, RUS: Did Not Play

The third installment in the commemorative exhibition series was played tonight in Halifax, with the Russians, after a convincing victory in Yaroslavl last Friday, just squeaking past Team Canada 6-5. To Russia's credit, they never trailed, but Canada carried the play for most of the game and may have deserved a better fate. Truth be told, Laurent Brossoit's poor showing (6 GA on just 27 SOG) in net for the Canada was probably the difference as the Russians got an alternately superb and suspect effort from Andrey Makarov who stopped 37 of 42 shots in his second straight start.

Again, only two of the three Lightning prospects involved in the exhibition series, defensemen Nikita Nesterov and Artem Sergeev, played as 2012 1st-round selection Andrei Vasilevski watched another game from the bench.

After managing strong performances in the first two matches, Nesterov was less impressive tonight. The physicality and aggression he displayed in Game 2 was still there tonight, though only noticeable on a few shifts, one in particular in which he out-muscled an opponent along the boards in his own end in order to steal and clear the puck. This might be, in part, a function of the Russian defense, during many stretches, having to fend off waves of odd-man rushes. Nesterov was ultimately forced to take a desperation penalty after Mikhail Grigorenko, Buffalo's 2012 1st round selection, coughed up the puck just inside the offensive zone to spring the Canadians on a counterattack. Nesterov's most memorable shift, though, came late in the third when he sacrificed his body to a heavy hit deep in his own zone to ensure the puck would clear before moments later gathering the puck near his own blue line and beginning a rush that ended unceremoniously as he fumbled away possession just outside the Canadian zone which led to a quality scoring chance at the other end. It was that kind of night for Nesterov.

Sergeev, who had an assist in Game 1, added another tonight, the primary dish on Russia's third goal, a PP marker late in the first. Again tonight, for much of the game he avoided drawing much notice while on the ice. It was, however, encouraging to see him maintain sound positioning against the mobile and ever-crafty Morgan Rielly whose attempted shot, after failing to beat Sergeev 1-on-1, deflected harmlessly into the stands. As far as insignificant details go, it was Sergeev who was in the box (serving a holding penalty) when Anton Zlobin scored short-handed to put Russia up 4-2 early in the second period.

It was Andrei Sigarev who played the hero for Russia tonight with a two-goal performance that included the game-winner, though Kings prospect Nikolai Prokhorkin, with a goal and an assist (which was an elaborate set up on the power play), was a force tonight. A trio of defensemen (Ryan Murphy, Ryan Murray and Morgan Reilly), each with multi-point games, seemed to dominate the stat sheet for Canada, though Jonathan Huberdeau and Ryan Strome, despite only managing an assist between them, were superb in leading a much more aggressive and consistent offensive attack for the host country.

The final game of the series will be played tomorrow, again in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Andrei Vasilevski, barring injury or illness, should be back between the pipes for Russia.

(Photo by Eric Dubose)