BERLIN (Reuters) - Washington Capitals left wing Alexander Ovechkin was on target as champions Russia kicked off their world title defense with a 3-1 victory over Slovakia in Cologne Sunday.
Ovechkin, the biggest NHL name in the tournament with the league playoffs still going on, netted his team’s second midway through the second period.
Maxim Afinogenov had put them ahead in the first period before NHL MVP candidate Ovechkin flicked in his 19th goal in five world championships to make it 2-0.
Slovakia, the 2002 champions, were determined not to give up and forced Russia’s Vassili Koshechkin into 32 saves before pulling one back early in the third through Ivan Majesky.
Russia’s Victor Kozlov made sure of their first Group A win when he fired the puck into an empty net seconds before the end.
Germany caused a huge biggest upset when they beat the United States in Group D in the tournament’s opening match on Friday.
Canada, gold medallists at the Vancouver Olympics but with only one player from that team in the squad, eased past Italy 5-1 to top Group B.
Editing by Ed Osmond