SOCHI, RUSSIA – Alexander Radulov scored twice as Russia beat Norway 4-0 to reach the quarterfinals of the Olympic ice hockey tournament on Tuesday, but the hosts’ NHL stars once again failed to shine.
Sergei Bobrovski stopped 22 shots for the shutout and Pavel Datsyuk had three assists for the Russians, who will face Finland on Wednesday for a spot in the semifinals.
Russia is desperate to win gold on its home soil after crashing out of the Vancouver Games in the quarters four years ago.
Radulov redeemed himself with his two goals and an assist Tuesday in front of a crowd of 11,423 at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
Radulov, who plays for CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League, took two penalties on Saturday which led to two American goals.
The United States won the match 3-2 in a shootout thriller that helped it finish atop of Group A of the preliminary round and forced Russia to have to play an extra game in the qualification round.
Ilya Kovalchuk, of St. Petersburg, and Ak Bars Kazan forward Alexi Tereshenko also scored for Russia as it got all of its goals from KHL players while its NHL stars continue to fire blanks.
The Russia-Norway game was one of four qualifying matches on Tuesday that will determine the final eight teams of the tournament.
The Russians have a quick turnaround before facing the 2006 silver medalist Finns in less than 24 hours for a spot in the semis.
“It is do-or-die right now. Everybody is ready for tomorrow,” said star forward Alex Ovechkin.
Finland and Russia have met on six previous occasions at the Olympic Winter Games. Finland leads the series 4-2 and has won each of the last two encounters.
“They’re a really good team,” Russian defenseman Fedor Tyutin said of the Finns.
“You see it every year, it doesn’t matter who they have on their team. They plan a pretty good structure of the game, pretty good defense.”
Ovechkin finished with four shots on goal but no points in over 16 minutes of playing time but says he is not worried about his lack of scoring in this tournament.
“I’m trying to score, otherwise I am doing simple things for the team,” Ovechkin said. “When we are leading we don’t have score, we have to protect the lead.”
He says he is waiting for moments when he can show his offensive skills but they just haven’t come yet.
“The most important thing is the team,” he said. “It is not about personal stats. We are here to win the gold. It is not about winning some scoring titles.”
Ovechkin is not the only Russian who isn’t scoring. Four goals in a game is the second most for Russia this tournament. He said his team is improving each game but still needs to work on getting the puck out of its own zone quicker.
“We started well. We took some shots and put pressure on their defense,” he said.
“And we had a few mistakes especially when our defense had the puck. We forwards didn’t move our feet and we stopped on the blueline. And then we made some changes and it worked.”
Norway’s Patrick Thoresen said the Russians have some glaring weaknesses that they are going to have to correct if they want to get to the Olympic podium.
“They need to be more compact in their defensive unit,” said Thoresen, who used to play in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers. “If they can come together as a team then they certainly have the confidence to go through.
“But I am not so sure to be honest. They are allowing so many chances in front of the goal.”
The other quarterfinals are all set for Wednesday, Sweden meets Slovenia, Canada takes on Latvia and the United States faces the Czech Republic.