Winter Olympics hockey: Ilya Kovalchuk, OAR dominate Team USA in 4-0 rout
The Russians take the top spot in Group B and steal a first-round bye from the Americans
Fresh off a bounce-back win over Slovakia on Thursday, the United States men's hockey team headed into Saturday's game againstwith a chance to secure a bye to the quarterfinals in the elimination stage.
Instead, it was the Russians who secured that bye thanks to a 4-0 victory over the Americans in Pyeongchang. The decisive win was OAR's second in as many days, helping them jump to the top of the Group B table.
Nikolai Prokhorkin and former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk both scored twice for the Russians in the victory. Not surprisingly, in a matchup between these two rival countries, the game was one that featured plenty of nastiness and extracurriculars.
Prokhorkin opened the scoring 7:21 into the first period with a net-front goal set up by a feed from Sergei Mozyakin. It was the first time that the Americans failed to score first in their three prelim games, and the first time that they were forced to play from behind. (USA lost its opener to Slovenia in overtime.)
USA forward Ryan Donato nearly tied the game at the end of the first period, but his heavy shot clanked off the crossbar and the Americans headed into the first intermission down 1-0.
It was Prokhorkin finding the back of the net again to make it 2-0 just a few minutes into the second period. That tally came on a nifty little wrist shot that found the top corner.
The United States had plenty of chances to get on the board, especially in the second period, but they couldn't capitalize on those chances. USA captain Brian Gionta had a golden opportunity to get on the board with a breakaway in the middle frame, but his attempt was forced wide by Russian goaltender Vasily Koshechkin.
Then, Kovalchuk delivered somewhat of a backbreaker when he found the back of the net with 0.2 seconds remaining in the second period. That goal came on a one-timer from above the right face-off circle and found its way through USA goaltender Ryan Zapolski, making it 3-0 OAR.
Kovalchuk provided another gut punch on the other side of the intermission when he scored 28 seconds into the third period. Slava Voynov sprung the chance with a nice blue line-to-blue line feed, then Kovalchuk secured his second goal of the day with a nice wrister over Zapolski's glove and into the top corner. That goal made it 4-0, which would ultimately be the final line.
Koshechkin stopped all 29 shots that the Americans put on net.
For the United States, they finish the preliminary round with four points, tying them with both Slovenia and Slovakia in Group B. None of those three teams will have a shot at the bonus bye to the quarterfinals, so they'll all be taking the ice Tuesday for a do-or-die play-in round.
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