Sergei Gonchar tallied his first goal of the Olympics on a second period power play but it was not enough as Sidney Crosby
, Marc-Andre Fleury
and the Canadians crushed the Russians, 7-3, in an elimination game at Hockey Canada Place.
In a tournament filled with dramatic finishes, the matchup billed as the “Game of the Tournament” was anything but epic.
Given a golden opportunity to avenge last season’s Game 7 loss to Crosby and the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Russia’s Alex Ovechkin was held scoreless as his team found itself down 6-1 just 4:07 into the second period.
Since Crosby and Ovechkin entered the National Hockey League five seasons ago it’s been Ovechkin who has picked up more of the personal hardware, but he has to be discouraged that Crosby continues to take home the more important trophies – often at his expense.
Last season Crosby led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship after eliminating Ovechkin and the Capitals. Now, Crosby has a chance to leave Vancouver with a gold medal while Ovechkin flies home to Washington wandering what went wrong for a Russian team that was a heavy favorite to win it all, but instead goes home without a medal.
Crosby, on the other hand, will lead his team against the winner of Wednesday’s Sweden-Slovakia matchup, which will drop the puck at 11:55 p.m.
In a rare matchup between the two superstars where neither found the scoresheet, it was the hard work of Crosby’s unit just minutes into the game which spurred a first-period Canadian onslaught which basically ended any doubt in the game’s outcome.
Following a dominating shift by Crosby, Jarome Iginla and Eric Staal, Canada rode the momentum to goals from Ryan Getzlaf on a terrific feed from Dan Boyle, Boyle on a shot from the left circle over the glove of Evgeni Nabokov and Rick Nash on a breakaway from in tight to take a 3-0 lead.
Dmitri Kalinin breathed life into the Russians late in the opening frame when his wrist shot from the left point sailed over the glove of Roberto Luongo to get Russia back within two, 3-1.
Brendan Morrow erased Kalinin’s goal by walking out of the near corner and stuffing a backhander under Nabokov with 1:42 to play in the first period to make it 4-1 in favor of Canada.
Russia’s head coach, Slava Bykov, elected to stick with Nabokov at the start of the second period. That move would come back to haunt him when goals off the sticks of Corey Perry and Shea Weber increased Canada’s lead to 6-1, and forced Bykov to finally pull Nabokov in favor of Ilya Bryzgalov.
The switch seemed to invigorate the Russians, as Maxim Afinogenov got behind the D and flipped a shot past the glove of Luongo 39 seconds later to make it 6-2.
That threat didn’t last long as Perry effectively sealed the game minutes later when he swiped a cross-ice feed from Staal into an empty cage to give the Canadians a 7-2 advantage.
Late in the second period, Evgeni Malkin
sent a pass from the right-side wall to Gonchar at the center point. Gonchar unleashed a laser through a flurry of bodies to make it 7-3, but that was all the scoring Russia could muster.
Neither team scored in the final period as the Canadians ended an eight-game losing streak in Olympic play to the Russians dating back to the 1960 Games.
Now Canada has to wait to see who they will take on next, but after lessening some of the intense pressure they had to be feeling before back-to-back wins the past two days, they should feel good no matter their next matchup.