Sunday, February 16, 2014

USA and Russia get their game on!

It took a bit of time, but it's safe to say that when it comes to the Olympic Hockey Tournament at Sochi, it's Game On now, that after Saturday's showdown between Russia and the USA.

The third game for both squads provided the best test yet for two teams anticipated to be among the star attractions of these Sochi games and neither disappointed over 60 minutes of regular time an additional five of overtime and then into the scourge of hockey purists, the shootout.

Much of the play was along the lines of a high tempo NHL game, the Russian's playing the more physical of the two teams in the early going as they sought to create some space for their offensive game plan.

A scoreless first period, only set the scene for the frantic periods to follow, the Americans and Russian's exchanging checks and scoring opportunities, with a healthy dose of shot blocking on the part of the USA that had he been there, would have left Vancouver Canuck's head coach John Tortorella as an ecstatic observer.

Pavel Datsyuk opened the scoring in the second period, his magician like handling of the puck putting one behind Jonathan Quick and pushing the Russians ahead at the mid-way point of period two.

The obviously pro-home country crowd exploded in celebration, with their President looking on, exchanging high fives with all who offered him (no doubt cleared for such things by security), all sharing the common theme we imagine that perhaps more goals might soon follow.

The cheering would die down some six minutes later as Cam Fowler, brought the teams even once again, finding the range on Sergei Bobrovsky and serving notice that the USA wasn't going to mail in the rest of the game.

The two teams headed for the dressing rooms tied at 1 a piece after two, resting up for what would be
wild third, that had just about a little bit of everything and no shortage of drama, or conspiracy depending on which post-game press conference one might attend.

Joe Pavelski would change the mood of the Bolshoy with ten minutes remaining in the third, his go ahead goal stunning the Russian audience and adding even more tension, if possible to the flow of the final period.

Pavel Datsyuk once again saved the moment, tying things up with but eight minutes to go, another highlight reel performance from the Russian captain, who has clearly accepted his role as leader at these Olympics.

Russia appeared to have the Americans on the ropes at this point, the push into the US end providing for many chances and at the 15 minute mark, what appeared to be a go ahead goal as a rocket from Fedor Tuytin sailed into the back of the American net.

However, to add to the storyline of an already amazing game, the goal would be disallowed, as the American net was ever so slightly off it's pin, said by some a situation that was aided by the US goaltender Quick.

International rules apparently provide for a disallowed goal in such situations, though considering the slimmest of centimetres that that net was "off", you could build up a case that perhaps the Russian's indeed had been robbed of their goal.

Though, ancient fans of past International hockey wars will chuckle at the idea that the Russian hockey team would ever be "robbed" on their very own ice.

Still, the goal disallowed, the game would then move on to Overtime, a five minute replay of the tension and speed of the previous sixty, all to no final result.

Leaving things to the dreaded shoot out, in this case a long running exhibition of scoring opportunities that, for the most part turned into the TJ Oshie show, as the American sniper brought an end to the day's proceedings with the final shoot out marker, his fourth of the shootout, to send the Americans on to victory.

With the game but part of the preliminary round, it's hardly a death blow to the wishes of President Putin to see his squad make it to the gold medal round.  And it may actually provide a much needed measuring stick for both teams.

For the Russian squad, it offers up the puzzling nature of Alexander Radulov, the enigmatic former Nashville Predator, who spent most of the game finding ways to put the USA on a power play. Three games in now the Russians will also be getting antsy to find some offence from Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk.

The latter who now plays in the KHL, looked rather slow and out of sync with his high flying team mates from the NHL, finding a way to quickly get him on the same page as his line mates will be a key thing for the Russian squad to try and put in place.

Both the US and Russia raised their game on Saturday to the kind of level that is required to move on in a short tournament.

Sure there will be disappointment from the Russian side as to the outcome, but they had to be pleased with their effort and response, the same goes for the USA, who never seemed to lose faith that they were but a goal away from victory, which as it all turned out was the right way to think of it.

For the moment, the US will hold the bragging rights from the top flight of their pool in the Olympic tournament. A feeling which will last until the next match up, where one bad shift could prove to be the difference between a medal or falling out of the hunt.

Some of the reviews of Saturday's showcase can be found below:

February 15-- Russians riled as goal disallowed in thriller against U. S.
February 15-- It might not have been a Miracle, but the Americans' 3-2 victory over Russia was filled with drama
February 15-- Russia's Voynov suggests U. S. goalie and Kings teammate Quick cheated
February 15-- Russia denied game-winning goal, Oshie scores 4 in shootout
February 15-- U. S. beats Russia in shootout classic Olympic game
February 15-- Oshie shootout master in U. S. win, Ovechkin silent for Russia
February 15-- Russian hockey fans angry at refs after loss to USA
February 15-- T. J. Oshie leads USA to thrilling shootout win over Russia
February 15-- Oshie's heroics give U. S. biggest hockey win since "Miracle"
February 15-- Grudge Match: US Downs Russia in thrilling shoot out
February 15-- T. J. Oshie nets game-winner in shootout as Team USA beats Russia 3-2 in Olympic thriller
February 15-- Detroit Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk looks like regular, superstar self today vs. USA
February 15-- Local players on both teams contribute in USA's 3-2 win over Russia in hockey
February 15-- T. J. Oshie's shootout goals lead U. S. past Russia in thriller
February 15-- Hockey showdown features Russian star power vs. American grit, guile
February 15-- T. J. Oshie's wizardry trumps Pavel Datsyuk's brilliance in wild U. S. win

You can review some of the archive of items on Sochi that we've assembled from our Men's Tournament anchor page.

Scores of the Olympic Hockey tournament can be found here, while notes on the tournament and Canada's travels in it can be found here.

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