In his first game at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Latvia, St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko led his native Russia to a 3-2 shootout victory over Sweden on Monday, recording an assist and the shootout-winning goal. After scoring two goals in four playoff games this year for the Blues, who were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round, Tarasenko looks to continue returning to regular form after playing just 34 regular-season NHL games over the past two season due to injuries.
Tied for the game lead with four shots, Tarasenko had 13:56 of time on ice in the game that ultimately knocked Sweden out of contention for a spot in the tournament’s quarterfinals. He took shorter shifts and played less time than the majority of Russian forwards, lowering his risk of injury and helping to ease him along his return to play process. Despite the lessened minutes, he played a major role in the game.
Tarasenko’s assist came on San Jose Sharks prospect Alexander Barabanov’s third-period goal to give Russia a 2-1 lead. After a partial breakaway attempt by Tarasenko, the puck rebounded to the stick of Barabanov, who found the back of the net on his backhand. Unfortunately for them, Buffalo Sabres forward Victor Olofsson managed to tie the game up for Sweden just minutes later, extending the game past regulation.
The spotlight shone down on Tarasenko yet again when his name was called to take the 10th shot in a thrilling five-round shootout between the two sides. Cutting to the right side of the ice, then making his way back across center, he waited out Swedish goaltender Adam Reideborn before firing the puck into the back of the net to seal the win for Russia. He was later awarded Hero of the Day honors, as voted on through social media by IIHF fans.
Tarasenko’s next game with Russia is scheduled for Tuesday against Belarus. Blues fans, be sure to tune in as Tarasenko looks to stay hot and help his country secure first place in Group A ahead of the quarterfinal round.