The German national ice hockey team succumbed to Russia with just two minutes left in their semifinal match on Saturday, setting up a gold medal game between Russia and the Czech Republic.
The Russians missed a lot of great opportunities
The World Ice Hockey Championship experienced another thriller in Cologne on Saturday with underdogs Germany putting up a scrappy fight against a world-class Russian team, falling in the end by a mere two goals to one.
The semifinal match began like a fairy tale, however, with Germany's Marcel Goc scoring the go-ahead goal in the 16th minute. The puck took a lucky bounce in a scramble in front of the Russian net and Goc chipped it past goalie Vasili Koshechkin.
Russia stuck to its game plan and launched wave after wave of attacks against the German goal with a team of international stars that read like the Who's Who of ice hockey.
Germany put up a great fight against the Russians
But it took until 12 minutes into the second period before one of them, Yevgeni Malkin, put away a blistering slapshot that was so fast the cameras couldn't even see it.
With the score tied at one all, the teams returned to their dressing rooms for the second break with the Russians wondering how they were ever going to win this match against a German team that knew it had to play the game of its life to win - and did its best to do just that.
The Germans - and the Russians - had oodles of scoring opportunities, but good defense and great goaltending on both sides pushed the sold-out crowd of 18,734 German and Russian fans in the Cologne arena to the brink of a communal nervous breakdown.
German coach Uwe Krupp called it one of the best games his team had ever played.
"We had chances to score a second and third goal. But the Russians scored instead. That was the difference," he said.
German NHL star Christian Ehrhoff of the Vancouver Canucks could barely conceal his frustration.
"I'm disappointed. It's difficult to find the words. We were so close, but the Russians capitalized on our mistake," he said.
Russia launched wave after wave of attacks against the German goal
One man's worst nightmare
That fatal mistake came off the stick of Philipp Gogulla, the man who just two nights before scored the winning goal against Switzerland to propel the German team into the semifinals in the first place.
With a little over two minutes to go in the third period, Gogulla grabbed the puck in the German zone. He accelerated up the right side, but without looking backhanded a sloppy pass intended for his teammate at center ice. Russian star Pavel Datsyuk intercepted it and streaked toward the German goal on a two-on-one break.
Datsyuk buried the puck himself on the short side of German goaltender Rob Zepp. It was the only time in the game that Zepp did not look good.
Russia now goes on to play the Czech Republic in Sunday's gold medal game. Germany meets Sweden, which lost 3-2 to the Czechs in the other semifinal on Saturday afternoon, for the bronze.
"Against Sweden, we're going to give it everything we've got again. We want a medal," said Ehrhoff.
Editor: Martin Kuebler