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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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  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 x - TBL 77 47 23 7 249 201 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 69 16 24 -3 40
M. Cammalleri 62 25 13 3 38
P. Elias 63 11 21 -16 32
S. Gomez 52 7 24 -7 31
S. Bernier 61 13 14 3 27
T. Zajac 68 11 12 -4 23
A. Larsson 58 3 19 3 22
A. Greene 76 3 18 3 21
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
E. Gelinas 56 6 11 -3 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 26 28 8 .928 2.19
K. Kinkaid 5 5 3 .918 2.47