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Alex Ovechkin’s quick goal gets Russia off to a winning start in opener
SOCHI, Russia — Alex Ovechkin and the Russians got off to a breathtaking start against Slovenia, then relaxed. The result was a closer-than-expected win over a country playing hockey in the Olympics for the first time.
The Russians’ jaw-dropping skills, though, were still enough to beat Slovenia 5-2.
“We started well, got the lead and then we stopped playing,” Ovechkin said.
The surprising result led one Russian reporter to tell coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov it would be a “death sentence,” to leave goaltender Semyon Varlamov in net against the U.S. on Saturday.
Yes, they’re taking hockey pretty seriously here — perhaps as much as Canada did during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
The Russians still had enough offense to overcome Varlamov’s performance.
Ovechkin scored 1:17 after the puck dropped with a wrist shot that made the crowd roar. He made the flag-waving fans gasp 2:37 later with a drop pass to set up Evgeni Malkin’s goal to give Russia a 2-0 lead.
The Slovenians were respectable for two-plus periods. Ziga Jeglic had two goals in the second period — one before Malkin scored and one after — to pull his team within a goal.
“We said in our locker room, ‘We have nothing to lose,’” Jeglic recalled. “We played a little better and Russia was a little weaker. It’s too bad in the end that we didn’t surprise them.”
Russia created a cushion in the first half of the third period when Valeri Nichushkin and Anton Belov scored.
Moments after the game was over, the team raised their sticks to a standing ovation from the more than 11,000 fans in the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
The crowd had chanted, “Ro-ssi-ya! Ro-ssi-ya!” before players were even on the ice, then kept it up throughout the game.
Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk, who is used to getting a lot of vocal support with the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, called it an “unbelievable” atmosphere.
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