Still looking more like a group of individuals than a well-calibrated team, Russia had enough to cruise by the No. 12 seed Norway at the Bolshoy Ice Dome on Tuesday afternoon.
Led by Pavel Datsyuk and former NHL forward Alexander Radulov, Russia’s top line did all of the damage, accounting for three goals, including an empty-netter, in a 4-0 victory that was more difficult than the final score showed.
For the third straight game, Datsyuk was outstanding with a three-assist performance. The Red Wings’ center got helpers on both of Radulov’s goals as well as Ilya Kovalchuk’s second-period tally. Datsyuk now has five points in the Olympic Games, which is tied for third with Canada’s Drew Doughty and Sweden’s Erik Karlsson.
Datsyuk appears to be returning to his all-world form as a two-way center. He won 11 of 15 face offs against the Norwegians. The best centerman on the Russian roster, Datsyuk has won 52-of-81 face-offs (64.2 percent) in four games.
The Russians’ high-powered offense, particularly Alex Ovechkin (two points) and Evgeni Malkin (three points), has had difficulty scoring in Sochi. Whether it’s the pressure of trying to win gold in front of the home fans or not building chemistry among the four lines, the No. 5 seeded Russians entered the qualification round having scored just eight goals in three games.
Radulov and Kovalchuk finally solved Norway goalie Lars Haugan in the second period. The two former NHL forwards gave Russia a 2-0 lead through two periods.
Meanwhile, the Norwegians were without their best player, New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello, who was shown before the start of the game dressed in street clothes with his left hand wrapped in bandages.
Norway continued to play more of a defensive style as they managed just 22 shots on Russia’s goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who has a 1.44 goals-against average in two games.
Radulov scored his second goal of the game after Norway lifted its goalie with more than two-minutes left in regulation. Haugan went back in the game but 27-seconds after Russia built a 3-0 lead, Alexei Tereshenko scored his first-career Olympic goal.
The win sets up a quarterfinal match between the Russians and Finland, the No. 4 seed, who finished the preliminaries with a 2-0-1 record. The Finns are another short-handed bunch as forwards Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild and Valtteri Filppula of the Tampa Bay Lightning had to withdraw in days leading up to the Sochi Games.
The last time these two countries faced off in the Olympics, it was the Finns who advanced to the gold-medal game when goalie Antero Niittymaki made 21 stops in a 4-0 semifinal win over Russia at the 2006 Turin Games.