After not being able to score until the shootout against the Slovaks, Russia finally found their offensive spark against the lowly Norewegians in Tuesday’s qualification match-up. For much of the first period Russia looked hardly the offensive juggernaut that they are on paper as Norway matched them stride for stride.
Even on the man-advantage, Russia’s Achilles heel so far this tournament, the team could not get much going as the home crowd were treated to another unenthused performance.
However things finally began to go Russia’s way thanks to the play of Alexander Radulov who had been the scapegoat against Team USA for taking two really unnecessary penalties that lead to both American goals. The 27-year-old would snap Russia’s drought of goals (which lasted for over four periods) after throwing a back-hander that caromed past goalie Lars Haugen before making the most terrifying of faces in celebration.
Radulov would continue to wreak havoc on the Norwegian defense as he continued to drive to net from all angles, even trying to score from mid-air and it would be his continued effort that would result in Russia’s next goal as a pass by Pavel Datsyuk went off the post for Radulov before being tucked in by fellow KHL’er Ilya Kovalchuk.
With their lead doubled, Russia would continue to shutdown Norway’s defense and continue their streak of having allowed zero even strength goals which has eclipsed over 200 minutes since the opening game against Slovenia. The team has gotten stellar goal tending from both Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky who shut the door with 22 saves against Norway.
Both goalies have let in the same amount of goals and both have earned a shutout. With their next game against Finland it’ll be interesting to see whether they ride the hot play of Bobrovsky or go with Varlamov, a problem teams would love to have for sure.
Radulov would score an empty-netter to seal the victory before Alexei Tereshchenko would score his first goal of the tournament with Haugen back in net to cap it off at 4-0. Russia now turns their attention to the Finns who last disposed of Russia in the semi-finals in Turin and have tormented their junior team in recent memory.
Russia needs to come out firing against their neighbors to the north after coming out dazed and confused the past two games. Finland’s lone loss was to Canada in OT so it’s obvious they can hang with the big boys. The pressure will undoubtedly be on and hopefully Russia does not disappoint.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Valeri Nichushkin features in the game having been benched after just 3 minutes of ice time today. The big kid from the big D looked strong throughout the tournament and it would be a shame to not utilize his frame against the quick Finns.