By Josh Ferguson
The Slovaks pulled off the first upset of the 2010 men’s tournament with a 2-1 shootout win over Russia in Group B action at Canada Hockey Place Thursday.
It was Slovakia’s second game in as many nights to start the tournament. Despite some lapses in the middle frame, the Slovaks showed no signs of fatigue and stole a valuable point away from the Russians.
After getting outshot by Slovakia 10-8 in a scoreless first, Kontinental League star Alexei Morozov let a rocket go from the top of the circle that beat Slovak keeper Jaroslav Halak over his shoulder at 5:32 of the second to give Russia a 1-0 lead.
On the wings of some steadfast goaltending from Halak, the underdogs were able to stay within striking distance of the robust Russians despite getting outshot 16-5 in the middle stanza.
Slovakia had a glorious chance to knot things up with a 5-on-3 opportunity to start the third, but couldn’t capitalize with the two-man advantage.
However, the failure to convert on the power play would prove to be negligible to the Slovak’s chances of winning after Marian Hossa zipped a shot through Ilya Bryzgalov’s wickets midway through the third to tie the game.
Countryman Pavol Demitra made a nice individual effort to beat defender Ilya Nikulin to a loose puck deep in the Russian end before dishing the puck off to Hossa who was trailing on the play.
After overtime solved nothing, Jozef Stumpel and Alex Ovechkin each scored for their teams in the opening round of the shootout.
The Slovaks had the last shot in the sudden death portion of the shootout and so after Evgeni Malkin failed to convert, Demitra swooped in from Bryzgalov’s right and baited him into going post-to-post before flipping a beauty past the Russian’s outstretched blocker for the win.
Russian shooters were dreadful in the shootout as Ilya Kovalchuk, Malkin and Ovechkin (twice) all failed to hit the net – or merely get a shot off – in the sudden death rounds, giving the Slovaks three chances to win before Demitra finally converted on the fourth.
Both goalies were solid for their respective teams as Halak stopped 36 of the 37 shots he faced for the win, while Bryzgalov turned aside 31 shots at the other end.
Things are sure to get interesting in Group B action this weekend when Russia (1-0-0-1) faces off against the Czech Republic Sunday, while Slovakia (0-1-1-0) battles Latvia on Saturday to wrap up the round robin.