With the exception of a few moments during their first two games, the Russian men’s hockey team never looked like a cohesive unit in the Sochi Olympics.
That trend came to a head Wednesday, as the home side meekly fell out of medal contention in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Finland at Bolshoy Ice Dome (BOX SCORE). Russia finished the Olympics with a 3-2 record, but their three wins came against international also-rans Slovenia, Slovakia and Norway.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin exploded for a goal and two assists in Russia’s tournament-opening win over Slovenia, but he went scoreless in his final four games. Malkin followed a similar trajectory to his Olympic linemate Alex Ovechkin, who also was absent from the Russian attack after a two-point night to begin the Games.
Meanwhile, the Russian line of Pavel Datsyuk (2g, 4a), Alexander Radulov (3g, 3a) and Ilya Kovalchuk (3g) was quite effective throughout the tournament. Kovalchuk buried a pass from Datsyuk eight minutes into Wednesday’s game to put a charge into the Bolshoy crowd, but Finland rebounded to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Tuukka Rask stopped 37 shots for the Finns, who will advance to face border rival Sweden in Friday’s semifinals. Penguins rookie defenseman Olli Maatta manned a huge role in stifling Russia, as the 19-year-old received a team-high 19:54 of ice time – including 8:18 in the tense third period.
Pittsburgh’s Jussi Jokinen had a quiet game up front until late, when he had a glorious chance to put Finland up 4-1 with a few minutes to go. However, Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky – who replaced starter Semyon Varlamov in the second period – made a stunning stop to keep the home team’s slim hopes alive.
But in the end Russia fell in the quarterfinals for the second straight Olympics and will not medal for the third straight Games. For a team that entered the tournament under incredible pressure to win the gold on home ice, it was a tremendous disappointment, especially since the seemingly powerful Russians managed just seven goals in their final four games.
The United States and Canada both play at noon Eastern time in their quarterfinal matchups. Check back with City of Champions later today for further updates on how the Penguins’ representatives in each game performed.