Are the wheels ready to come off Russia’s Big Red Machine?
Accusations of cheating against U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick — made, shockingly, by Russian defenceman and Los Angeles Kings teammate Slava Voynov — underscore a tense response by Russia's players, coaches and fans following Saturday’s memorable 3-2 shootout loss to the Americans.
Examples of the poor form showed by Russia, which is facing enormous pressure as host nation of the Sochi Olympics, include:
- A would-be winning goal late in the third period by Fedor Tyutin was disallowed when video review showed Quick had knocked the net slightly off its mooring while sliding across the crease moments earlier. Voynov, his Kings teammate, told Yahoo! Sports he believed Quick may have done it on purpose: “I play with him. It is in his style to do something like that.”
- That disallowed goal set the stage for an unforgettable eight-round shootout in which T.J. Oshie scored on four of his six attempts to give the U.S. a 3-2 win. As it ended, there were reports Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov and his staff left the rink without shaking hands, as is customary, with their U.S. counterparts.
- Alexander Radulov had two penalties Saturday that both resulted in U.S. power-play goals. As Bilyaletdinov told reporters through an interpreter post-game: “Scratched? Yeah, he needs to be scratched, among other things.”
- Russian hockey fans reacted with unbridled passion on social media after the game, making Brad Meier, the American referee who waved off the Tyutin goal, a popular target. As The Wall Street Journal reported, the Twitter comments suggested a fix was in — or worse. “Even (Russian President Vladimir) Putin saw it. Is the referee still alive?” one person tweeted.
The Russians, who earlier in the week beat Slovenia 5-2 and are now 1-1, play against Slovakia on Sunday (7:30 a.m. EST).