Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Russians Roll Past US

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Russians Roll Past US

Article excerpt

Byline: The Associated Press

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- The blistering pace on the ice and the atmosphere in the arena was reminiscent of the epic showdown between the United States and Russia in Sochi four years ago.

That's where the similarities end.

When the teams met again at the Olympics on Saturday night without NHL players, Ilya Kovalchuk and the Russians put on a clinic outplaying, outhitting and outclassing the U.S. in a 4-0 shutout.

The U.S. must now play in the qualification round Tuesday, while Russians finished first in the group and move on directly to the quarterfinals, hoping their dominance puts T.J. Oshie's shootout performance in 2014 further in the rearview mirror.

"After the last game in Sochi, I think you guys are still showing the highlights of Oshie scoring those shootouts,

right?" Kovalchuk said. "So hopefully you're gonna change that now."

Russians Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Slava Voynov and U.S. coach Tony Granato are the only people back from that game, which had higher stakes because of the NHL talent.

There's still plenty at stake this time with the U.S. looking to win its first Olympic gold medal since the "Miracle On Ice" in 1980.

Granato doubled down after the loss on his pre-tournament comment that the U.S. doesn't "need a miracle" to win.

What it might need is better goaltending after Ryan Zapolski allowed four goals on 26 shots, including Kovalchuk's backbreaking goals less than 33 seconds apart at the end of the second period and start of the third.

Zapolski also allowed two goals to Nikolai Prokhorokin, a 2012 Los Angeles Kings draft pick. But it was the costly Kovalchuk goal with 0.2 seconds left in the second period that he wants back.

"It was a knuckle-puck and from a pretty long way away," said Zapolski, whom Granato confirmed would remain the U.S. starter moving forward. "The two other goals were really good shots. Good players are able to score goals like that, and those are some of their better players so they found a way to score."

This night lacked the tense political subtext of the Cold War from their 1980 meeting and the pomp and circumstance of Russian President Vladimir Putin attending and the pressure on the home team in Sochi in 2014, but it had the same kind of in-arena atmosphere. …

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