(photo courtesy of RIA Novosti)
The moment had finally arrived for Russia’s national hockey team as the crown jewel of the Olympics got under way for the home team. Chants of “Russia!, Russia!” echoed throughout the arena even before puck drop as the quest for gold was imminent. The pressure, intensity, and hype was answered within 77 seconds of the teams’ opening game with the poster boy of the NHL and Russia, Alexander Ovechkin, roofing a laser wrist shot into Slovenia’s net to send the crowd at the Bolshoy Ice Dome into a frenzy.
Russia would double their lead with Ovechkin finding Evgeni Malkin (who set up his line mate first) minutes later as he beat Robert Kristan on a small breakaway to show the hockey world that the bear is awake and hungry. However, following their quick outburst the big red machine got a little sleepy and allowed the Slovenians back into the game with their cutesy over-passing last seen in the Vancouver games in 2010.
Making their Olympic debut, Slovenia cut the Russian lead in half just two minutes into the second period when Ziga Jeglic beat Semyon Varlamov, who was screened by his defense while coming way out of his crease. Slovenia would keep their foot on the gas unlike their gracious hosts who would double their lead yet again thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk right before the pesky Jeglic found the net again.
Russia headed into the final frame clinging onto a one goal lead before turning it on again thanks to some newcomers. Valeri Nichushkin, who was making his senior team debut, powered down the ice to beat Kristan with a one handed effort to reinstate Russia’s two-goal cushion before fellow debutant Anton Belov put the game out of reach with a blast from the point to help his team finish just like they started.
While many expected the Slovenia’s to lie down they battled for nearly 50 minutes with some of the world’s best and showed Russia that if they want to medal in this tournament that they better cut the over-passing nonsense real fast and put teams away early. Russia’s next opponent is Team USA (Saturday 7:30 am EST) who will be a much stronger opponent for Sbornya to test their might against.