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Gaborik helps Slovakia upset Russia

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers


Rangers scoring leader Marian Gaborik had to be bursting with national pride late Thursday night in Vancouver, as his Slovak Olympic hockey team upset powerhouse Russia 2-1 in an overtime shootout.

The Slovaks needed seven shootout rounds to beat the Russians, but the long wait was worth it when Pavol Demitra of the hometown Vancouver Canucks sent the puck past Russian goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov for the 2-1 victory.

Team Slovakia players, including Rangers scoring leader Marian Gaborik, race out to congratulate Pavol Demitra on his overtime shootout goal that beat Russia 2-1 on Thursday night.
Slovakia's upset win came on the heels of a disappointing and emotional loss to the Czech Republic just 24 hours earlier. By winning in overtime, the Slovaks gained two standings points to Russia's one. Russia leads Group B with four points, but Slovakia gave itself new hope of an automatic quarterfinal-round berth depending on the results of its final round-robing game vs. Latvia on Saturday and the result of Sunday's Russia-Czech Republic game.

Gaborik, who scored his team's first goal of the tournament in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Czechs, played another strong game, particularly in the third period. He saw 19:24 of ice time, the third-highest amount among Slovak forwards, but 9:08 of that came in the third period alone. He also led his team with six shots on goal, including a remarkable five in the third period, when the Slovaks overcame a 1-0 deficit to force overtime on a goal by Marian Hossa.

Gaborik also participated in the shootout as the Slovak's sixth-round shooter -- and the last one used before Demitra got the winner. Gaborik's shootout attempt was stopped by Bryzgalov.

Alexander Ovechkin, who scored on his first shootout attempt in the second round, was denied twice by Slovak goalie Jaroslav Halak in the extra rounds, when teams were free to choose any player as their shooter.

Halak, who plays for the Montreal Canadiens, was the other big hero for Slovakia with 36 saves in regulation and overtime to go with stops on six of seven shootout attempts. Russia outshot Slovakia 34-29 in regulation, and shots were tied at 3-3 in overtime, but Slovakia dominated the third by outshooting Russia 14-10.

Gaborik spent most of the game on a line with former NHL players Jozef Stumpel, who also scored a shootout goal for Slovakia, and Ziggy Palffy. He also saw a great deal of power-play time, particularly in the early moments of the third period, when Slovakia had a 5-on-3 opportunity for 74 seconds.

Playing the left point during the 5-on-3, Gaborik had a couple of outstanding chances to score. He was stopped by Bryzgalov as he crashed the net at 1:06 of the third, and he shot the puck just wide about 45 seconds after that.

Russia took a 1-0 lead on a goal by former NHL player Aleksey Morozov. The Russian captain, a star player in the KHL, picked up a slowly rolling, deflected puck and blasted a drive past Jaroslav Halak from the top of the left faceoff circle at 5:32 of the second period. Andrei Markov and Sergei Zinoviev assisted on the goal.

Marian Hossa made it a 1-1 game at 9:48 of the third period when he took Demitra's drop pass at the top of the left circle and rifled a slp shot through Bryzgalov's pads. Former Rangers forward Marcel Hossa, now playing in the KHL, had the other assist on ihs brother's goal.

Gaborik had a chance to give his country a lead just a minute after Hossa's goal, as he took off from his own blue line, raced down right wing and unloaded a wrister from the right circle that was stopped by Bryzgalov.

With three minutes left in the period, Gaborik had one last prime scoring chance when he took a pass from Palffy between the circles and shot a quick wrister that Bryzgalov stopped.

Slovakia's dramatic shootout victory followed Thursday's earlier shootout win by Team Canada, which beat Switzerland 3-2 on Sidney Crosby's deciding goal.

In the only other game involving Rangers player on Thursday, Team USA defeated Norway 6-1. Rangers captain Chris Drury scored the game-winner off an assist from Blueshirts teammate Ryan Callahan.
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