Ovechkin leads Russia over Czechs

By QMI Agency


Russia's Alexander Ovechkin celebrates a teammate's third-period goal against the Czech Republic during Olympic men's hockey action at GM Place in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)

VANCOUVER — Alex Ovechkin had two assists and five shots Sunday, but his ability to change a game was not told by the stat sheet alone.

Ovechkin flattened Czech Jaromir Jagr with a head-snapping shoulder check in the neutral zone in the opening minutes of the third period, the kind of ferocious checking abilty that separates Ovechkin from the rest of hockey’s elite players.

The hit caused a turnover and seconds later, Evgeni Malkin scored to put Russia ahead 3-1 on their way to a 4-2 win at GM Place in the final game of the Olympic preliminary round for both teams.

Russia finished its three games with a 2-0-1-0 record for seven points and top spot in Group B, while the Czechs were second at 2-0-0-1 for six points.

The Ovechkin hit cemented the Russian win and sends them straight to the quarterfinals Wednesday. The Czechs were waiting the outcome of games later to determine if they would have to play in the elimination round Tuesday.

“It is just a moment. If I have a chance to hit somebody, it does not matter who it is,” said Ovechkin, who spoke only in Russian after the game.

Teammate Sergei Gonchar agreed the hit amped up the Russian squad.

“It obviously gave us a lift and we scored right after that. We have a lot of guys who can score the goals. Now when all the games are so important, it’s not about who’s scoring goals, it’s who’s doing the right things for us and obviously Alex did the right thing,” said Gonchar.

“We scored right after. It was perfect.”

The first period was played at a crazy pace, with the Russians taking the lead on Malkin’s first of the game on the powerplay at 15:13. Tomas Plekanec tied it for the Czechs, also on the powerplay, with just 54 seconds left in the first.

The game slowed in the second and the only goal was scored by Viktor Kozlov on a broken play for a 2-1 Russian lead.

Ovechkin’s big hit gave the Russians some breathing room.

Jagr was carrying the puck through the neutral zone when Ovechkin put his shoulder into him. The puck slid to Fedor Tyutin, who fed Alexander Semin up ice. He slipped a pass from the boards to Malkin, who scored his third goal of the tournament.

“It was a big mistake,” said Jagr. “The hit, I don’t really care, but the mistake, the turnover I made and they scored a goal, that hurts. That hurt me the most. Without a doubt, that was the key moment.

“I don’t really care how I feel. If something is hurt, it always heals. But the mistake, it’s not that easy to heal.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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