SLOVAKIA vs. RUSSIA
Pavol Demitra used home ice advantage to help Slovakia upset Russia 2-1 in a shootout on Thursday.
The Vancouver Canucks forward, a clear crowd favourite at Canada Hockey Place, scored the shootout game-winning goal and added an assist in what proved to be a blockbuster battle between the Slovaks and Russians.
Demitra, the 14th overall shooter in the one-on-one showdown, paced himself as he made his way as wide as possible down the left wing before moving in on Russian goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in a chess match with both waiting for the other to make a move.
Bryzgalov bit and swayed to his left ever so slightly giving Demitra the shot he was looking for. His wrister grazed the left post on its way in.
“It was a great move by me,” said Demitra, a two-time Olympian, matter-of-factly.
“I got a second chance and I was going from the other side, wait, wait and waiting until he made the first move and I just tried to chip it over him. It’s so fun to score in your own place.”
Demitra missed on an earlier shootout attempt, but because Alexander Ovechkin and Jozef Stumpel were the only shooters to bulge the twine, the veteran NHLer got another chance to come through.
His goal, paired with six monster saves from Slovak goaltender Jaroslav Halak in the shootout, pushed Slovakia to the upset despite playing its second game in as many nights.
Halak finished with 36 shots through regulation and overtime outdueling Bryzgalov’s 31 stops for Russia.
Playing a night prior should have slowed the Slovaks, but they were as swift as ever. Demitra said they came in focused and prepared to come out on top on this night.
“I think we learned from last game, we got a slow start against the Czechs and I think we played a nice second 20, but first mistake we did Jagr scored a goal and we have to learn. We have to learn from mistakes.
“We’re going to stay low,” added Demitra on how Slovakia will deal with its shocking win over Russia.
“We’re going to go game-by-game and we know what we have to do. We have to play good defence and try to play games at 0-0 and hopefully our goalie is going to play unbelievable like he played tonight. He won the game and he’s our number one star.”
Demitra and the Slovaks have Friday off before facing Latvia Saturday.