SOCHI, Russia ― The Russians really wanted to win this one. It was evident from the atmosphere before the game as well as from the fire with which the team played.
Pavel Datsyuk was a true captain in leading his team, with two goals and another in the shootout. How did he handle the loss?
“Right now I am still very emotional," Datsyuk told me after the game. “We have not had a chance to think things over yet. Of course we are not happy with the result of the game. But we played well today. We were a team. That’s good.”
Other players supported Datsyuk in saying that the team must find the positives from the loss. “I don’t think that something terrible happened today.” Ilya Kovalchuk said. “We tied the game, scored one more to take the lead… I don’t know what happened with that goal. You must always find the positives. But give credit to Team USA ― they showed a lot of character. And we will now get ready for the next game.
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“We played well as a team in a difficult game. We played well on defense, as we didn’t give the Americans an opportunity to create chances. Bob played exceptionally well today.”
A lot of questions were asked about the disallowed goal. It appeared that Jonathan Quick dislodged the net that was still sitting on top of one of its moorings while making a save when Evgeni Malkin was charging the net.
Yet the officiating crew allowed the game to continue for a long time, until Fedor Tyutin’s long shot went past Quick for what looked to be the Russian lead. No so fast, said the referees. After watching the replay, Tyutin’s goal didn’t count.
“The referee just told me the net was moved before the shot, and that’s why he disallowed the goal,” Pavel Datsyuk told me after the game. Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t complain either as he said “[t]he goal should have been disallowed because that’s the rule. Everybody plays by the rules. It’s OK. I hope we will play them again.”
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The Russian penalty kill was also a concern. Alexander Radulov warmed the bench in the penalty box for both of the goals by Team USA. The Russian coach at the press conference also said that Radulov didn’t have a good game. Yet Radulov himself declined speaking to the media, as he blew past the waiting reporters in the mixed zone of the Bolshoy Arena in Sochi.
“Until this game we had not had a lot of chances to try out our special teams play, especially the penalty kill in the game against Slovenia,” Pavel Datsyuk said after the game. “Today was a really good test for us. I think both the penalty kill and the power play had a good game. There’s a lot to look forward to.”
Defenseman Slava Voynov gave a lot of credit to the American team’s power play. “This is what you call being shorthanded,” he said. “If you take our best game [shorthanded] and their best game [on power play], they should still score because they are on the power play. Yes, we gave up two goals. But they were really good on power play.”
Those two goals are still something Sergei Bobrovsky wants to get back. “Both of the American goals I would love to have back. I should have stopped them both.” Bobrovsky said, adding “This is the tournament where every game is very important. This was a great battle.”
Bobrovsky was also a little upset after giving up four goals on six shootout attempts to T.J. Oshie. “Of course you get upset when one player scores four goals against you. But what can you do now? He won today. But it’s a new day tomorrow.”
It is a new day for Team Russia as they face Slovakia next. “We’re like a machine that is only picking up speed.” Voynov said. “We just had a glitch. We will take a look and find positive moments, and we will continue building our game.”
This was a great game by both teams, worthy of the Olympics. It ended in a shootout that probably deserved a hard-fought tie.
“Maybe so, but we just wanted to win so, so bad!” Datsyuk summed up the Russian reaction.