SOCHI, Russia – Most units of measurement and finance at the Winter Olympics require conversion or translation: centimeters into inches, kilograms into pounds, rubles into dollars or Euros. But time is measured the same way pretty much everywhere, and as the first few shifts came and went in the second period of Russia’s game against Norway on Tuesday, the Russians were coming against the 100-minute mark since they had last scored a goal. It felt like a long time, in any language.
The players were showing frustration; Alex Ovechkin could be seen muttering (in Russian, one would assume) under his breath. The crowd at the Bolshoy Ice Dome had gone from sing-chanting “Shaybu! Shaybu!” (“Score! Score!”) to scream-demanding it.
But finally, with a couple of second-period goals, the Russians gave themselves some relief and some breathing room, and held on for a 4-0 win – which, while sufficient for the purpose of advancing, did not completely assuage concerns over their systematic lack of scoring.
Russia, seeded fifth after the preliminary round, now moves into the quarterfinals, where it will face fourth-seeded Finland on Wednesday. In their four games so far, they have scored just 11 non-shootout goals.
On a roster full of NHL stars, Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk, former NHLers now playing in the domestic Kontinental Hockey League, saved Russia from possible ignominy. They both scored goals – with Radulov assisting on Kovalchuk’s – in the second period.
Before then, Russia hadn’t scored a non-shootout goal since the third period of their game Saturday against the United States – a stretch that also included 65 minutes of futility in their 1-0 shootout victory over Slovakia on Sunday.
Radulov had been branded the goat of Russia’s 3-2 loss to the U.S., having been in the penalty box for both of the Americans’ regulation goals. Things had been so bad that when Russian Coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov was asked whether he felt Radulov deserved to be scratched for the next game, he answered, “Yes, among other things.”
But Radulov was not benched, and in fact he scored one of Russia’s two shootout goals that defeated Slovakia. Against Norway, he often looked like the best player on the ice, finishing checks, instigating near-scuffles and showing the best scoring touch around the net.
On his goal, which broke the scoreless tie, Radulov circled behind Norway’s goal and banked a shot in off a Norwegian defender’s skate. On Kovalchuk’s goal, Radulov broke free in front of the goal and fired a backhander that hit off the left post and rebounded towards Kovalchuk, who had an easy shot into a nearly empty net for the goal.