Team Russia have progressed to the semifinals of the hockey World Championships by beating Norway 5-2, while the Red Machine’s archrivals from Canada suffered a shock 4-3 defeat at the hands of Slovakia.
The Russians did not expect a walk in the park against Norway, as their 4-2 win over the Scandinavians in the group stages was a hard-fought one.
Alex Ovechkin, who just arrived from the US, needed less than 10 minutes to open his scoring account at the tournament co-hosted by Finland and Sweden.
It is hard to say whether he wanted to score or assist, but the puck hit the back of netminder, Lars Haugen, and crossed the line after Ovi’s effort from behind the goals, 1-0.
Norway showed that it was too early to relax, getting a fast equalizer. Per-Age Skroder collected the puck, with ricocheted from the side of the rink and beat Semyon Varlamov, 1-1.
Russia still went to the first break in front as Aleksey Emelin sent Aleksandr Popov one-on-one with the keeper and the forward took full advantage of the opportunity.
But Norway went level again, capitalizing on their first powerplay chance of the match 28 seconds after the restart.
Patrick Thoresen netted to continue his reign in the scorers’ race at the championship, with seven goals and 11 assists.
Russia, on their part, spent six minutes on powerplay in remainder of the period, but could not find the target.
Zenitula Bilyaletdinov’s men managed regain the lead after 55 seconds in the third period when Norway’s keeper failed to cope with a rather average shot from Emelin, 3-2.
Russia finally got some breathing space with nine minutes left to play, thanks to Nikolay Zherdev, who redirected the put into Norway’s net after an effort from Evgeny Biryukov.
Ilya Nikulin made it 5-2, blasting from the blue line on powerplay, with Evgeny Malkin getting an assist in this one.
“Of course, I started feeling more confident right after I scored,” Alex Ovechkin told Sportbox.ru. “It was a bit hard in the first period. When you bypass one player on the big ice, there’s still a kilometer separating you from the goals. But I managed to adjust.”
Russia’s coach, Zinetuka Bilyaletdinov, was also satisfied with Ovi and his Washington team-mate, Aleksandr Semin.
“The guys looked pretty good for their first game,” he said. “It was hard for them – a long flight and a different time zone. But they coped well.”
Russia will play Finland in the semifinals on Saturday after the tournament’s co-host collected a 3-2 win over Team USA, with Jesse Joensuu netting the winner 8 seconds from time.
Meanwhile, Slovakia created the first big upset of the quarterfinals, eliminating Canada, who entered the payoffs from top spot in Group H.
The North Americans were 3-2 up going into the final period, but were unable to hold on to their advantage.
Milan Bartovic equalized for the Slovaks, before the Maple Leafs biggest star, Ryan Getzlaf, let his team down.
Team Canada received a five-minute penalty for his knee-on-knee hit on Juraj Mikus, with the injured player being helped off the ice.
Michal Handzus became Slovakia’s hero by grabbing the winner on powerplay with 2:38 remaining till the buzzer, 4-3.
Canada return home with no medals after losing in the World Championship quarter-finals for the third year in a row.
Slovakia’s rivals in the semi-finals will be their neighbors from the Czech Republic, who stunned co-hosts Sweden in the last game of the night.
The teams were level at 3-3 and seemed to be heading for overtime until Milan Michalek robbed the Swedish defenders of the puck and found the upper corner of Viktor Fasth’s goals to make it 4-3.
There was less than half a minute left to play and even replacing their goalie with a skater didn’t help the home side equalize.