Russians bounce back with shootout win over Slovakia
Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - After Saturday's heartbreaking shootout loss to the United States, Russia was looking to avoid a letdown against winless Slovakia on Sunday at the Sochi Olympics.
It did, but just barely.
Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk each scored in the shootout, while Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves through overtime and stopped both Slovaks in the shootout to send Russia to a 1-0 win in the men's ice hockey tournament at Bolshoy Ice Center.
Despite the win, Russia wrapped up preliminary round action with six points to finish second behind the U.S. in Group A. The top team in each group, along with the best of the three second-place teams, automatically earns a spot in Wednesday's quarterfinals, while the other eight squads will face off in Tuesday's qualification round to determine the last four quarterfinalists.
Russia now awaits the result of Sunday's matchup between Finland and Canada, who sit tied atop Group B with six points. If the game ends in regulation, the loser will be left in a three-way tie with Russia and Switzerland for the wild-card berth into the quarterfinals.
Slovakia outshot Russia 22-16 over the first 40 minutes, but Varlamov turned away all comers to keep the game scoreless.
The host nation then came to life in the third, peppering netminder Jan Laco with 15 shots while permitting Slovakia to put just two pucks on net.
Despite the extreme disparity, the Russians were unable to solve Laco, who got some help from the crossbar early in the period and saw an Evgeni Malkin blast find iron late in the frame.
After both teams failed to score in overtime, Varlamov opened the shootout with a stop of Michal Handzus before Radulov raced in and roofed a backhander over Laco's glove to give Russia an early edge.
Varlamov then made a nice right pad save on Tomas Tatar and Kovalchuk ended the game by beating Laco blocker side with a backhand.
Despite the setback, Slovakia secured its first point in Sochi.
02/16 10:49:08 ET