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Russia falls in Slovakia shootout

Friday, 02.19.2010 / 11:29 AM ET / News
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Russia falls in Slovakia shootout
VANCOUVER – Perhaps somebody forgot to inform the Slovaks that they had drawn the short straw in this 2010 Olympic hockey tournament. Or maybe they figured, having confounded the skeptics and the schedule-maker four years ago by going undefeated in pool play in Torino, they simply were being perfectly set up to shock the hockey world yet again.

Whatever the case, the little country that supposedly couldn't somehow found a way Thursday night at Canada Hockey Place. It took a third-period comeback. And it took seven rounds of a shootout -- three of which saw Alex Ovechkin shoot against them.

But at the end of a second straight long, withering night, it was the Slovaks who were still standing -- 2-1 victors over the powerhouse from Russia. And now, a talent-laden Group B that seemingly was set up for a Russia-Czech Republic showdown to decide first place on Rivalry Sunday is suddenly a three-horse race in which nobody can be ruled out.

"We still have a pretty good chance to be No. 1 in our group," Ovechkin said after a game in which he was a bodychecking dynamo but held off the scoresheet other than going 1-for-3 in his shootout attempts.

Ovechkin is correct -- a Russian victory in regulation Sunday would give it the Group B title regardless of the results of the Czech-Latvia game Friday night or the Slovakia-Latvia game Saturday. However, whatever veneer of invincibility the Russians brought into this tournament is now gone.

Then again, so is the notion that the Slovaks were doomed by coming in with a banged-up Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa and having to open the tournament by playing back-to-back games against the Czech Republic and Russia.

"It's a huge win for us," said Slovakia captain Zdeno Chara, who waged a night-long physical war with Ovechkin. "It's a tough schedule. When you play back to back against such great teams as the Czechs and Russia, it's always exhausting. You're playing within 24 hours in really hot conditions. The ice is probably not the greatest because there have been two or three games going on it. So it's tough.

"But we found a way to win a game."

They found a way by riding superb goaltending from the Montreal Canadiens' Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 36 of 37 Russian shots during the 60 minutes of regulation and the five of overtime, and then six of the seven he faced in the shootout from the likes of Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin.

Ovechkin, in fact, shot three times -- scoring on his first -- because IIHF rules allow the same shooter to go as often as the coach desires after the first three shooters have taken their turns.

"It was crazy because, in NHL, they can only go once and here they keep going with same guy after the first three shooters," Halak said. "It was crazy to see. But lucky for us, we got the (victory)."

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 75 16 27 -6 43
M. Cammalleri 68 27 15 2 42
P. Elias 69 13 21 -20 34
S. Gomez 58 7 27 -10 34
S. Bernier 67 16 16 2 32
T. Zajac 74 11 14 -3 25
A. Larsson 64 3 21 2 24
A. Greene 82 3 19 1 22
E. Gelinas 61 6 13 -2 19
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 26 31 9 .925 2.26
K. Kinkaid 6 5 4 .915 2.59