CANADA SENDS RUSSIA PACKING WITH 7-3 VICTORY IN OLYMPIC MEN'S HOCKEY
VANCOUVER – Team Canada sent Russia packing from the Olympic men's hockey tournament Wednesday with a stunning 7-3 victory that showed the home team is back in high gear and firing on all cylinders.
Next up comes the winner of a Sweden-Slovakia quarter-final, to be played later Wednesday. The semifinal goes Friday.
This was the kind of Canadian hockey that fans had been yearning for since executive director Steve Yzerman named his team in December – a physical, relentless attack combined with speed and skill.
After a slow start to the tournament, Yzerman calmly reassured the nation it was coming. His team delivered on the promise by dispatching Germany and Russia on back-to-back days by a combined score of 15-5.
The win over Russia was especially satisfying for another jam-packed house at Canada Hockey Place. There were quite a few Russian flags among the throng of red-and-white Canadian jerseys, but many of them were packed up and put away by the time the third period started.
At that point, Canada had already chased Russian goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and built a 7-3 lead in one of the most lopsided games the teams have played in recent memory.
“We wanted to play with an edge, and we wanted to grind their (defence),” said Canadian forward Corey Perry. “Play physical, that's how we're built. Play a skating game, and you don't back down.”
Canada was rampant from the get-go. There was a more physical element to the team's game – Alex Ovechkin received a particularly rough ride early – and Ryan Getzlaf opened the scoring at 2:21, nearly getting knocked over by an exuberant Dan Boyle who did all the work on the play.
“We were not surprised about how they were going to start,” Ovechkin said of the Canadians. “I think we were not ready for the first five minutes of the game.
“When we woke up it was too late. It was 3-0.”
An interesting subplot heading into the game was the matchup between Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin, but it never materialized. Neither player managed to find the scoresheet and Ovechkin's presence on the ice was virtually non-existent – as it has been off the ice during a tournament where he actively avoided doing media interviews.
Instead, some of the lesser stars took the spotlight.
Perry scored twice for Canada while Getzlaf, Boyle, Rick Nash, Brenden Morrow and Shea Weber added singles. Dmitri Kalinin, Maxim Afinogenov and Sergei Gonchar replied for the overmatched Russians.
The turning point came early, just under 13 minutes into the first period. Nash darted into the Russian zone and took a beautiful backhand pass from Jonathan Toews before lifting the puck over Nabokov, giving Canada a 3-0 lead – and a dream start.
A stunned Russian bench never completely recovered even though Kalinin got them on the board shortly after coach Vyacheslav Bykov called a timeout.
“We came out with a lot of jump. We were firing, a lot of energy. And the atmosphere here was unbelievable,” Canadian forward Eric Staal said.
Morrow restored Canada's three-goal advantage before the end of the first period, spinning out from the corner and somehow finding an opening between Nabokov's pads at 18:18. Many thought the Russian goalie might be pulled at the intermission, but he came back out for two more goals – one by Perry at 3:10 of the second period and another by Weber at 4:07.
By the time backup Ilya Bryzgalov hit the ice, Russia was down 6-1 and in need of a miracle.
“We knew we were in for a game,” Getzlaf said. “We put out an effort as good as we've had in this tournament. That was our game plan. Our line wasn't exactly thrilled with the way we've played but tonight everything came together.”
The Olympic tournament began with many predicting the two top-ranked hockey nations might collide in the final, but each struggled out of the gate and lost a game in the preliminary round. It brought them together sooner.
Russia has had Canada's number in recent years, having beaten them in the final at the last two IIHF World Championships along with the quarter-finals at the Turin Games in 2006. But the Canadians weren't going to be denied this time.
There was a party-like atmosphere in the building during a final 20 minutes that were completely free of tension for Canadian hockey fans. The crowd derisively chanted “Ooooovi!” – one of the few reminders No. 8 was participating in the game – and showered hometown hero Roberto Luongo with love after stopping Evgeni Malkin on a late breakaway.
When the final buzzer sounded, fans flooded out of the arena to join a massive street party.
|Arena||Canada Hockey Place
||City, Country||Vancouver, B.C., CAN|
|Date||Wednesday, February 24, 2010
||Time||4:30 p.m. PT|
|Goals & Penalties/ Buts et pénalités|
|First Period/Première période|
|Second Period/Deuxième période|
|Third Period/Troisième période|
|Goaltenders/Gardiens de but|
Evgeni Nabokov / Ilya Bryzgalov (in 04:07 2nd)