The CZECH REPUBLIC and RUSSIA renewed an old Eastern European rivalry at the 2010 Winter Olympics in a match that meant first place in the Group B standings to the winner in Vancouver.
Powered by a pair of goals from EVGENY MALKIN of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penquins, Russia defeated the Czech Republic 4-2 to claim the automatic berth in the quarterfinal round at the Vancouver Games.
As Czech star JAROMIR JAGR of Russian club Avangard Omsk sat in the penalty box, Malkin and the Russian national team drew first blood on the power play fifteen minutes into the contest. A shot from the point produced a rebound for ALEXANDER OVECHKIN of the Washington Capitals, which was saved by Czech Republic goaltender TOMAS VOKOUN of the Florida Panthers. The loose puck in front soon kicked out to Malkin down low in the faceoff circle on the right wing.
From the sharp angle on one knee, Malkin threaded the puck through Vokoun’s arm and midsection for a 1-0 Russia lead.
The Czechs would tie the game with a power play goal of their own however, with less than a minute remaining in the opening period.
After fine work by the Czechs in the offensive zone, specifically, by Czech captain PATRIK ELIAS of the New Jersey Devils and defenseman TOMAS KABERLE of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the point, Elias was able to hack the puck ahead to Montreal Canadiens forward TOMAS PLEKANEC.
Plekanec collected the puck, spun around, and snapped a shot past Russian goaltender EVGENY NABOKOV of the San Jose Sharks, off the far post and into the net to square the score. For Plekanec, it was his third goal in three games for the Czech Republic at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Given the rich tradition and history of these two rival nations at the Winter Olympic, it should have come as no surprise the second period produced a tightly contested, close checking affair. The Czechs actually held a 9-7 advantage for shots-on-goal in the middle session, but it was the Russians who retook the lead with less than five and half minutes to go until intermission. Fashioning the goal for the Russians were a pair of players certainly familiar to national team coach VYACHESLAV BYKOV.
ALEXANDER RADULOV, despite tight marking by Czech MARTIN ERAT of the Nashville Predators, was able to knock the puck forward to VIKTOR KOZLOV alone in the slot. Kozlov’s shot far post caught Vokoun moving the wrong way and sent the Russians back in front. Both Kozlov and Radulov, of course, compete for Salavat Yulayev Ufa, the Kontinental Hockey League club coached by Bykov.
The goal that would decide the game came less two minutes into the third period and included the play of the day.
Jagr, stickhandling at center ice, was caught with his head down and abolutely demolished by a devastating hit by Ovechkin. A quick pass from FYDOR TYUTIN of the Columbus Blue Jackets sent ALEXANDER SEMIN away with the puck down the left into the Czech zone until the Washington Capital backhanded a centering pass into space for Malkin steaming down the right. Malkin, again on one knee and, again, with a severe angle at the bottom of the faceoff circle, swept the puck past Vokoun for a critical two-goal advantage.
The Czechs managed a game-high eleven shots in the third period and were able to draw within one with roughly five minutes remaining in the game. The play was made by MAREK ZIDLICKY of the Minnesota Wild; pinching in from the right point to collect a puck along the boards midway in the Czech zone, Zidlicky circled the net and fed MILAN MICHALEK of the Ottawa Senators standing in front. Michalek was easily able to one-time the puck into a virtually wide-open net for his first goal in Vancouver.
The Czechs would press but, for the Russians, the danger would pass with an empty net goal from PAVEL DATSYUK of the Detroit Red Wings thirteen seconds from full time.
RUSSIA 4 – CZECH REPUBLC 2
Shots-on-goal : Russia 31 – Czech Republic 25
RUS goals : Malkin 2, Kozlov, Datsyuk
CZE goals : Plekanec, M.Michalek
to be continued…