- © RIA Novosti. Alexei Kudenko
© RIA Novosti. Alexei Kudenko
SOCHI, February 18 (R-Sport) – Alexander Radulov scored two goals and an assist to help Russia to a 4-0 win over outsider Norway in the first round of the Olympic men’s hockey playoffs.
In Wednesday’s quarterfinals, Russia goes on to meet a Finnish team that has rested since losing 2-1 to Canada on Sunday.
"Everyone played well, everyone did their job," Russia captain Pavel Datsyuk said.
"A very tough game. I don't agree that we weren't fired up for the Norwegians," he added, but conceded: "It probably looked that way from the back-row seats."
Winning in regulation against Norway is a boost for a Russian team dented by its 3-2 shootout loss to the U.S. and 1-0 shootout win over Slovakia in the preliminaries, but the game was uncomfortably close at times.
After a scoreless first period in which Norway's defense frustrated Russia, Radulov fired up the Bolshoy Ice Dome’s capacity crowd with some individual skill on 4:12 of the second, going behind the net before flicking the puck past goaltender Lars Haugen.
Russia’s second goal 13 minutes later involved a little luck as a shot by Radulov bounced off the post and behind Haugen for Radulov’s fellow KHLer Ilya Kovalchuk to poke the puck in.
CSKA Moscow's Radulov, 27, added an empty-netter with a minute to go in the third period, before Alexei Tereshchenko polished the scoreline with another 20 seconds later.
One notable problem for the Russians is a misfiring power-play that was feared before the Olympic tournament began but has now not scored a goal in nine opportunities. On the plus side, the win over Norway was the second straight shutout for the Sochi hosts.
For the Norwegians, the defeat is the fourth time in as many games that they have lost in regulation and ends a disappointing Olympic tournament. Norway posed little threat to Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and was outshot 35-14 by the Russians.
"Our game plan was to keep it tight as long as possible," Norwegian defenseman Jonas Holos said. "We knew the longer we could keep it at 0-0 they would get more frustrated and take penalties."
Earlier in the day, Slovenia surprised Austria in a 4-0 win to book a meeting with Sweden in the quarterfinals. The winner of that game meets either Russia or Finland in the semifinals.
Later in the day, Switzerland takes on Latvia and a Central European rivalry is rekindled as the Czech Republic plays Slovakia.