Going up against the best Russia has to offer on the ice is no easy feat. And winning? Well, that’s another animal entirely. But that’s exactly what captain Zdeno Chara
did with his Slovakian team last night, proving that, in the Olympics, anything can happen.
“It’s something I always said, even before the Olympics—anybody can beat anybody,” Chara said. “Things are really improving, the countries are. They all can skate, they all can play hockey.”
Especially after their tough loss to David Krejci
’s Czech Republic team only the night before, Slovakia’s win has reenergized their team. The victory was not handed to them, however. It was a hard-fought battle that ended in a shootout, with Slovakia ultimately on top.
Russia scored first with a goal by Alexei Morozov in the second period. Slovakia tied it at 1-1 in the third period thanks to Marian Hossa. Then the goaltenders, Russia’s Ilya Bryzgalov and Slovakia’s Jaroslav Halak, squared off in seven shootout rounds, with Pavol Demitra scoring the deciding goal for Slovakia.
“It came down to the shootout and our goalie was extreme,” Chara said. “He was unbelievable, I think stopping [Alex] Ovechkin three times, and [Ilya] Kovalchuk, [Evgeni] Malkin, [Pavel] Datsyuk.
“Those guys usually don’t miss and he came up big.”
With two games back-to-back, and only a few days to find their footing as a team, the Slovakians initially struggled with their strategy.
“We don’t have the best structure in our team,” Chara said. “It’s those first two days there’s millions of meetings, and we try to get a system in place.
“We had too many men twice on the ice tonight—Those things kind of do happen, but we try to minimize those mistakes and try to do things right.”
Following a much-needed day off tomorrow, Chara’s Slovakian squad will round out their Olympics with a game against Latvia, a team which Chara is careful not to underestimate.
“We want it, but for sure it’s going to be a tough game,” he said. “They skate well and we can’t take anybody lightly.
“We are in a position of underdog so we shouldn’t take anybody lightly just because we beat Russia.”
Despite his diplomatic attitude and hesitant optimism, Chara did admit that winning, and especially winning at the Olympics, felt good.
“With the Olympics, it’s a special tournament, it’s one of the best tournaments that you can experience as an athlete,” he said. “Every time you win, it’s a great feeling.”