SOCHI, Russia – There were tired legs on the ice, hoarse voices in the stands and foul moods all over Russia on Sunday, owing to the fateful events of the evening before. But there was still a hockey game to play, so everyone took their places at the Bolshoy Ice Dome and did what was expected of them.
Perhaps it was understandable that both players and fans from Russia lacked the energy they had shown the night before. But by the time everyone started to come alive, with Russia fighting to overcome an undermatched and winless Slovakia team, it was nearly too late.
After 65 minutes of scoreless play, the Russians needed a three-round shootout to survive. Ilya Kovalchuk’s score past Slovakian goalie Jan Laco sealed the win.
Russia’s epic shootout loss against the U.S. on Saturday was barely 21 hours old when Russia had to take the ice again. Fatigue is no excuse for uninspired play, especially when the Americans were trouncing Slovenia next door at the Shayba Arena. But something was not right with the Russians.
Slovakia had been outscored 10-2 in losing its first two games of the tournament, and was starting its third-string goalie, Jan Laco, Sunday. But they still managed to outshoot the Russians in each of the first two periods, before Russia – aided by a quartet of Slovakian penalties — started to assert itself in the third.
Even then, however, the Russians couldn’t find a way to get on the board, despite some nice playmaking by center Evgeni Malkin.
The Russians thought they had a power-play goal early in the third period, when a deflection off the stick of Alexander Radulov in front of the net rattled around the goal. Two of their players raised their arms in victory, but the light never lit and play continued. Only at the next stoppage of play was the video reviewed, showing the puck hit the crossbar and then the post, but did not cross the goal line.