Blackhawks’ Olympic Effort: Day 4
Day 4 of the Olympics hockey men’s tournament was packed full of intensity, and started with an upset for Team Slovakia, who was beaten by Slovenia 3-1 in a game where they were touted as the favorite.
Team Slovenia, in their first Olympics, have little depth - they played their NHL star forward Anze Kopitar for 26 minutes in the game,but they still managed three goals from three different players: Kopitar, Rok Ticar, and captain Tomas Razingar. Slovakia’s Blackhawks stars, Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus, still have to get on the scoreboard for their national team, as Slovakia’s lone goal came from Tomas Jurco, a rookie for the Detroit Red Wings.
But the big headlines tomorrow will be about the USA/Russia’s game. Already surrounded with a lot of buzz because of the fierce competition between the two teams, it was an intense, gritty game that ended up going to a shootout.
The first period was scoreless, and it took almost 10 minutes of the second for Russia to score the first goal, coming from their captain Pavel Datsyuk. But the game was running on high intensity, and full of penalties on both sides. Six minutes later, USA responded with a goal by Cam Fowler.
Both teams came back for the third determined to win, and Russia thought they had it in the bag with an early powerplay goal that ended up being disallowed as Jonathan Quick’s net was off its moorings. Joe Pavelski scored for the USA 5 minutes later, and they held onto the league for a while, both teams playing a tight game, unafraid to come forward and block shots. But 8 minutes before the end of regulation time, Dustin Brown was called for kneeing and sent to the penalty box, and Datsyuk scored on the powerplay.
Regulation time ended at 3-3, and the 5 minutes of overtime went on with no goal scored, leading to an 8 round shootout in which the USA prevailed. Unlike in the NHL, after the first three shooters have gone and tried, the IIHF allows coaches to pick the same shooter again to try and score, and both teams used that rule to its full extent, as Ilya Kovalchuk tried to score on Quick 4 times, Datsyuk was sent out 3 times. For the USA, the only scorer in the first, TJ Oshie of the St Louis Blues, was sent out a grand total of 7 times, going for all of the extra rounds, which ended up being a good idea on the USA coaches’ part, as he scored the game-winning goal.
This nail biter of a game ended up 3-4 in favor of the USA, and TJ Oshie earned himself a status of American hero with his shootout moves.
It wasn’t the end of the day for hockey, though. Two more games were to be played in Sochi, Sweden/Latvia and Czech Republic/Switzerland.
Sweden, the big favorites for this game against Latvia, started 15 minutes in, a goal from Patrik Berglund, his second of the tournament, but Latvia retaliated quickly with a goal from Lauris Darzins.
Latvia fired first in the second frame, gaining the lead for a while after a goal from Janis Sprukts. But Sweden retaliated a minute later, a powerplay goal from Erik Karlsson. It would stay at 2-2 for 10 minutes, but then Daniel Alfredsson got team Sweden in the lead, where Sweden would stay for the rest of the game. Jimmie Ericsson added another one to the scoreboard, finishing the second frame 4-2 for the Swedes.
The third saw Latvia try to gain back some momentum, and after a few solid chances Zemgus Girgensons managed to score again on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. However, this game would not end up being decided by one goal as 12 minutes in the third period, Alexander Edler, allowed to play in this game after serving a long international suspension, scored to make it a 5-3 game. It would be the end score, giving the Swedes 3 wins in the tournament.
Switzerland showed what a solid goaltender they have in Anaheim Ducks’ Jonas Hiller, as he kept them in the lead throughout the game after a goal from Simon Bodenmann in the first period. It would be the only goal of the game, as Czech Republic would be unable to get themselves on the scoreboard.