The Washington Capitals were well-represented today, as Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson each tallied a goal and an assist in Team Russia and Team USA’s respective victories over Team Slovenia and Team Slovakia. Though both teams unsurprisingly came away with wins, the final score of each game was rather unexpected.
Russia, a gold medal favorite, was projected to rout the Slovenians. Instead, they struggled with consistency throughout the game, at times allowing the Slovenians to dominate in the offensive zone. Russia eventually triumphed 5-2, while the United States thrashed the dark horse Slovaks 7-1, effectively eliminating any doubts about the Americans’ offensive capabilities.
Ovechkin opened scoring at 1:17 into the first period with a seamless pass from Evgeni Malkin to score on Jaroslav Halak. Ovechkin quickly returned the favor by setting up Malkin, who scored less than three minutes later. The second period kicked off with a Zega Jeglic goal to cut Russia’s lead to 2-1. The Russians struggled to establish a forecheck for the remainder of the period, though the Slovaks were unable to score.
However, Jeglic was called for tripping with less than four minutes remaining in the second. Ilya Kovalchuk scored on the power play, with Malkin receiving credit for the primary assist (his third point of the game.) Jeglic, intent on remedying his mistake, swooped in to score a quick-response goal. The goal narrowed Russia’s lead to 3-2.
The third period saw Team Russia score twice, with the tallies coming from Valeri Nichushkin and Anton Belov respectively. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov was largely unchallenged throughout the game, as he faced only 14 shots. Nevertheless, he let in two of those 14, prompting further debate about the role of Sergei Bobrovsky.
The United States faced an arguably stronger opponent in Slovakia, who was led by Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins. After receiving a nifty pass from Phil Kessel, Caps defenseman Carlson was the first to strike at 14:27 in a first period that saw both teams struggle to gain their bearings. Carlson’s goal would be the only one in the first.
Slovakia got off to a quick start in the scoring race, as Tomas Tatar of the Detroit Red Wings sent a wrist shot past U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick just 24 seconds into the second. Ryan Kesler quickly countered, thus opening the floodgate for what would be a second period of domination by the Americans. Paul Stastny scored at 2:32, followed by David Backes. Stastny notched his second goal of the game, with Kessel and Dustin Brown each getting on the board.
Team USA’s victory was twofold; it demonstrated its players’ offensive prowess, with goals coming from each of the four lines. By capitalizing on Team Slovakia’s epic defensive collapse–which was somewhat rectified in the third period, during which no goals were scored–it would have been easy for Team USA to mellow in their own zone. Instead, they continued to play a hard-hitting, gritty game–exactly what the masterminds of USA Hockey were aiming for when they put the team together.