Following their heartbreaking loss to the US on Saturday, Russia faced off against a win-less Slovakia needing to win in regulation in order to get a bye to the quarter finals. Whether it was fatigue or lack of enthusiasm or both, Sbornya came out rather flat against a Slovakian team who had lost to newcomer Slovenia the night before.
The Slovak’s tossed their counterpart a huge bone by failing to start either NHL goalie in favor of Ján Laco of the KHL’s HC Donbass. Laco, however proved to be the difference for his team brushing every shot he faced aside with a little help from his posts.
Across the way, Semyon Varlamov got the nod after watching his team lose the night before and matched Laco shot for shot to likely solidify his role as the starting goalie from here on out.
Russia had numerous man-advantage opportunities and could not find much rhythm to find the back of the net. Through three games, Russia has found the net just twice with the extra man in 13 opportunities which is rather pathetic considering the abundance of weaponry they boast in offense.
While both teams had their chances throughout the game with the ice tipping in Russia’s favor in the waining minutes, the game would need overtime and eventually a shootout to decide the winner.
Alex Ovechkin had the best opportunity of the extra frame when he rushed down the wing and threw a hard shot on net only to get his juicy empty net rebound stuffed by Andrej Meszaros. For the second straight game the Russians would go to the skills competition and luckily for them Slovakia didn’t have TJ Oshie. Varlamov stopped both of Slovakia shooters and with the help of KHL poster boys Alex Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk’s sweet hands Russia would finally get the W.
However, since Russia could not beat the Slovaks in regulation and with little chance of an blowout of epic proportions in the Canada-Finland game later, Russia will be playing in the qualifying round on Tuesday likely against Norway.