Four years after shocking Russia in a preliminary-round game in Turin, Slovakia did it again late Thursday night, upsetting the gold-medal favorite, 2-1, when Pavol Demitra scored on the Slovaks’ seventh attempt in a shootout at Canada Hockey Place.
“Anybody can beat anybody,’’ said Boston Bruins defenseman and Slovak captain Zdeno Chara, whose team was the first to play back-to-back nights in the Olympic tournament.
Russia couldn’t hold a 1-0 lead in the second period, with Marian Hossa tying the game at 9:48 of the third. Slovakia goalie Jaroslav Halak totaled 36 saves through regulation and overtime, then stopped six of seven shootout attempts.
Russian coach Vyacheslav Bykov will be second-guessed for his strategy in the shootout, giving Pavel Datsyuk only one chance despite his six goals on 11 attempts in NHL shootouts this season. Instead, Alex Ovechkin (1 for 6 in the regular season) got three attempts, scoring just once and failing to get off a shot on his last try.
Ovechkin blamed the bumpy playing surface for his shootout woes.
“It’s hard to do something when the ice was so bad,’’ Ovechkin said. “It was the third game of the day and the puck was jumping.’’
Russia, with just four points in two games, faces Group B rival Czech Republic in what’s being called “Super Sunday’’ before the quarterfinals begin Tuesday. Group A favorites Canada and the US will play in the second game and Group C leaders Sweden and Finland square off in a rematch of the 2006 final.
Sweden 4, Belarus 2 - Daniel Alfredsson scored twice as Sweden avoided a monumental upset after taking a 3-0 lead yesterday.
Belarus, with only two NHL players to Sweden’s 19, got two goals from Dmitri Meleshko to make it close, but couldn’t duplicate its mini-miracle of 2002, when it shocked the Swedes in Salt Lake City.
The Vancouver crowd, rooting for the underdog, began chanting, “Bel-a-rus, Bel-a-rus’’ after Meleshko scored at 14:40 of the third to make it 3-2. Sweden didn’t finish it off until Alfredsson scored with 10.4 seconds remaining.
Daniel Sedin and Johan Franzen also scored for Sweden. Andrei Mezin made 34 saves for Belarus.
Czech Republic 5, Latvia 2 - Jaromir Jagr and Tomas Plekanec both scored their second goals of these Games in a dominating first period for the Czech Republic, which jumped out to a big lead and then held on.
Any realistic hopes Latvia had of pulling off an upset were snuffed out early when the Czechs scored three goals before they allowed a shot. Bruins forward David Krejci, Plekanec, and Jagr all connected within a 2:37 span early in the first. Defenseman Tomas Kaberle stretched the Czech lead to 4-0 in the second before Latvia started to mount a comeback.
Captain Patrik Elias scored a shorthanded empty-netter with 17.4 seconds left, and defenseman Marek Zidlicky had three assists for the Czechs, who held a 39-18 shots advantage.