Although the Russians are undeniably laboring through their home Olympics, a few timely goals and two brilliant goalies are keeping them alive in their hunt for gold.
“It is do-or-die games right now,” said Alex Ovechkin, who hasn’t scored a goal in three games. “We don’t have much time to prepare … but I’m pretty sure everybody on Finland is going to be ready, and we’re going to be ready as well.”
Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexey Tereshenko also scored, but the Russians knew they barely survived another tense afternoon at the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Russia was clinging to a 2-0 lead before doubling it in the final 1:07.
Russia must win four games in six days to claim its first hockey gold medals in 22 years after failing to earn a bye to the quarterfinals. The Russians were forced into two shootouts in the preliminary round, losing to T.J. Oshie and the U.S. before squeaking out a 1-0 win over Slovakia.
“I think at this stage, the most important thing is the win, whether it’s 5-0 or 4-1 or 1-0,” Bobrovsky said.
The powerful Russian lineup again struggled early against winless Norway, but Radulov’s soft backhand finally beat Lars Haugen early in the second period. The crowd gave a cathartic roar as Russia’s scoreless streak ended at more than 101 minutes - an astonishing number for a team with Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk in its lineup.
“We scored a couple lucky goals,” Ovechkin acknowledged. “Everybody knows we have such a good, talented team on offense. We just try to keep our energy and keep our emotion. It’s working, and (on Wednesday) we’re going to have emotions and strength for the quarterfinals.”
Russia’s strength in Sochi has been its goaltending, and coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov continued to rotate his netminders after Semyon Varlamov shut out Slovakia two days ago. Bobrovsky played well in the Russians’ loss to the U.S., but yielded four goals to Oshie in the shootout.
“Maybe Russia goes on a roll now,” Norwegian captain Ole-Kristian Tollefsen said. “After beating us and scoring a few goals, they’ll have a good feeling.”