Still not eating properly?
The news from the Russian camp was far from good. Firstly, once again the players started to complain about the quality of the food, just a few hours after being granted practically their own exclusive area in the canteen. And there were more complications, with Pavel Datsyuk training alone instead of in the team session. The coaches explained that the Detroit forward needed to rest a little.
Bryzgalov in goal
As predicted, Ilya Bryzgalov was between the pipes, and the Phoenix goaltender was at his inimitable best. He saved 31 shots, and ten or so of which posed a real threat. Ilya also produced a sterling performance in the shoot-out, and now there is the pleasant problem of whom to select for the third game.
Following the stunning victory over Latvia the Russian team earned praise from many quarters. Vyacheslav Bykov even likened Alexander Ovechkin to a nuclear power plant. All the players were given top marks and the minor problems, such as failure to score enough in powerplays, were deemed to be solvable. Judging by the general atmosphere, the upcoming test against Slovakia did not seem to worry either the supporters or the commentators. The Slovak team are not the youngest, and besides they had played the previous evening, whereas Russia had enjoyed an extra day of rest.
But Russia seemed a different team in the first period. Only Ovechkin was attacking and battling, while the others still appeared to be in a slumber. In the first 20 minutes the Slovaks created more dangerous moments than they managed in the entire game against the Czechs.
Morozov the savior
Alexey Morozov, the main man at Ak Bars, managed to somewhat ease the tension early in the second period when he pierced the opposition’s resistance with a goal, after a spell of two minutes where our guys were in powerplay but could have conceded twice. The Slovaks all too easily won the struggle for control of the game with four forwards, and twice Bryzgalov had to come to the rescue. The goal seemed to have no effect on Slovakia, who carried on as if nothing had happened.
Nightmare in the third period
Nonetheless, we should expect every team in the Olympics, apart from possibly Norway, to shrug off the loss of a single goal. With the Slovaks it was business as usual: tight in defense and sharp on the counter-attack. At the start of the third period they spent nearly two minutes playing 5-on-3, after Ovechkin and Fedor Tyutin were penalized, but Jan Filc’s team could not capitalize. In the 50th minute, however, Marcel Hossa leveled the score with a lethal finish. With two and a half minutes left of regulation time Gaborik found himself in a great position but was thwarted by Bryzgalov. Ilya was at the height of his game, and he needed to be again in the final minute, when he twice rescued his team.
The series opened with a superb strike from Barys forward Jozef Stumpel, easily getting the better of Bryzgalov. Then Morozov failed to convert his chance. This was wiped out by the Russian goalie, with clever use of the stick against Demitra. Ovechkin then leveled, showing no hesitation as he calmly struck the ball through the keeper’s legs. After this the guardians of the net held sway, both saving three shots until Pavol Demitra struck the killer blow.
Nothing has changed
Russia’s position in the tournament was not affected by the result. The Slovaks had lost their opening match to the Czechs, and so Russia’s fate in the group is still firmly in their hands: they need a regulation time win against the Czechs.
Canada find themselves in a similar situation, after they needed a shoot-out to overcome the Swiss. Now the tournament hosts need a regulation time win over the USA in order to go straight into the quarter-finals.
Alexei Shevchenko, khl.ru