Friday, July 31, 2015

Russia beats Norway to stay alive

SOCHI, Russia—When Alexander Radulov pumped both fists and let loose a jubilant scream, an entire hockey nation also exhaled for a day.
Although the Russians undeniably are labouring through their home Olympics, a few timely goals and two brilliant goalies are keeping them alive in their hunt for gold.

Radulov had two goals and an assist as Russia survived its first elimination game in Sochi with a 4-0 victory today over Norway in the qualification round.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 22 saves in the second-straight shutout victory for the fifth-seeded Russians, who earned a meeting with Finland in the quarter-finals tomorrow.
“It is do-or-die games right now,” noted Alex Ovechkin, who hasn’t scored a goal in three games.
“We don’t have much time to prepare . . . but I’m pretty sure everybody on Finland is going to be ready, and we’re going to be ready, as well.”
Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexey Tereshenko also scored, but the Russians knew they barely survived another tense afternoon at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
Russia was clinging to a 2-0 lead before doubling it in the final 1:07.
Russia must win four games in six days to claim its first hockey gold medal in 22 years after failing to earn a bye to the quarter-finals.
The Russians were forced into two shootouts in the preliminary round—losing to T.J. Oshie and the U.S. before squeaking out a 1-0 win over Slovakia.
“I think at this stage, the most important thing is the win, whether it’s 5-0 or 4-1 or 1-0,” Bobrovsky reasoned.
The powerful Russian lineup again struggled early against winless Norway but Radulov’s soft backhand finally beat Lars Haugen early in the second period.
The crowd gave a cathartic roar as Russia’s scoreless streak ended at more than 101 minutes—an astonishing number for a team with Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Pavel Datsyuk in its lineup.
The much-criticized Radulov came through where his NHL teammates couldn’t, and Kovalchuk also scored late in the second period when a rebound kicked off the back of Haugen’s leg.
“We scored a couple lucky goals,” Ovechkin acknowledged.
“Everybody knows we have such a good, talented team on offence,” he added. “We just try to keep our energy and keep our emotion.
“It’s working, and [on Wednesday] we’re going to have emotions and strength for the quarter-finals.”
Haugen stopped 27 shots for Norway, which has never beaten Russia in a major tournament.
Russia’s strength in Sochi has been its goaltending, and coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov continued to rotate his netminders after Semyon Varlamov shut out Slovakia two days ago.
Bobrovsky played well in the Russians’ loss to the U.S., but yielded four goals to Oshie in the shootout.
Bilyaletdinov wouldn’t say who will start against Finland tomorrow. But with Bobrovsky’s blanking of Norway, Russia hasn’t allowed a goal in 140 minutes, 33 seconds.
“Maybe Russia goes on a roll now,” said Norwegian captain Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.
“After beating us and scoring a few goals, they’ll have a good feeling.”

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