The Americans didn’t score a single legitimate goal in their 3-2 shootout win over the Russians Saturday morning at Sochi, Russia. Two Alex Radulov gifts led to two power-play goals. T.J. Oshie, the one-man shootout hero, scored four times in the shootoout to give the Americans the win.
But a win is a win is a win. And a breathless one, at that.
In some ways, the Russians deserved the result. For most of the game, Russia controlled the pace of the play. The Russians used their speed and skill to forge sustained offensive pressure on Jonathan Quick. Their puck-possession game limited the Americans to one-and-done rushes.
Then there was the goal that wasn’t.
At 4:40 of the third, from the left point, Fedor Tyutin snapped the puck over Quick. Replay showed that Radulov, who screened Quick on Pavel Datsyuk’s game-tying goal, didn’t tip Tyutin’s shot with a high stick. Everything looked clean. But replay also showed the US net was off its mooring by a hair.
No goal. Tie game.
Russia defenseman Slava Voynov, who plays with Quick on the Los Angeles Kings, said, “I play with him. I know that’s his style.’’ The quote was tweeted by Dmitry Chesnokov, a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
The Americans also wouldn’t have been in the match without Radulov’s gaffes. First, Radulov dumped Dustin Brown from behind when the puck was out of sight. On the power play, Cam Fowler crashed the net, took a James van Riemsdyk feed, and bumped the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky to make it a 1-1 game.
In the third, Radulov struck again. This time, the ex-Predator was sent off for hooking. On the power play, Patrick Kane threaded a cross-ice dart to Joe Pavelski for the go-ahead goal. “Thank You Radulov” chants were audible throughout America.
Datysuk answered for the Russians after Pavelski’s power-play goal with a one-up strike of his own. Brown played the part of Radulov, first by coughing up the puck in the defensive zone, then blasting Vladimir Tarasenko in center ice and drawing a penalty. Radulov made amends for his mistakes by screening Quick on Datsyuk’s goal.
The Americans get a breather Sunday. They will play Slovenia in the final game of the preliminary round. Quick could get a rest in place of Ryan Miller. But when the real stuff kicks off, Quick will be the ace. The former UMass-Amherst standout has earned that right.
Up front, the Americans will have to be quicker and smarter on the forecheck. The Russians eluded the US pressure by moving the puck rapidly. The Americans didn’t have the four-line pressure they had against Slovakia because of Russia’s good puck movement.
But the Americans proved they can hang with the best. The international ice surface, which looked like an ocean against Slovakia, seemed like standard NHL regulation size against Russia. That’s because there was dislike, conflict, and contact. It made for a sparkler of a game.
. . .
Gold nugget: Ryan Kesler. Sandpaper center touched the game in all areas. Won 15 of 24 faceoffs. Played 18 minutes, 37 seconds, third among team forwards after Kane and Pavelski. Blocked an Ilya Kovalchuk PP one-timer with his left hand. Gritty, inspiring performance.
Lead weight: Blake Wheeler. Two shifts, one penalty in the neutral zone. Not the way to earn ice time when you’re the 13th forward.
Numbers game: Ryan Suter had zero shots but 29:56 of ice time. Very good as America’s alpha dog on defense. Alex Ovechkin was quiet in even-strength situations because of Suter’s play.
Bruin involvement: Zero, save for the face time for Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli during a stoppage.
James van Riemsdyk-Joe Pavelski-Phil Kessel
Zach Parise-David Backes-Ryan Callahan
Dustin Brown-Ryan Kesler-Patrick Kane
Max Pacioretty-Paul Stastny-T.J. Oshie
Ryan Suter-Ryan McDonagh
Brooks Orpik-Paul Martin
Cam Fowler-Kevin Shattenkirk