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Russian Hockey Players Claim Gold in Olympic Nail-Biter

25 Feb 2018 9:30 am
By Andrew Jeong and Jonathan Cheng 

GANGNEUNG, South Korea--The heavily favored Olympic Athletes from Russia men's hockey team narrowly fended off a challenge from upstart Germany, in an instant classic of a gold-medal match punctuated by a series of dramatic turns in the final seven minutes of regulation.

In a reflection of the tensions at play, the Russian fans that filled the seats at the team's victory on Sunday sang Russia's anthem even as the Olympic rings were hoisted and the Olympic anthem was played--just hours after the International Olympic Committee formally upheld Russia's suspension on doping violations.

The Russian hockey team's first Olympic gold since 1992 was won on a goal in sudden-death overtime by forward Kirill Kaprizov, 29 seconds into a German high-sticking penalty.

But the team's real hero was Nikita Gusev, who scored two critical goals in the third period, including the equalizer with 56 seconds remaining in regulation.

Gusev, a 2012 National Hockey League draft pick for the Tampa Bay Lightning, scored or assisted in each of his team's four goals, including the pass that set up the game winner.

Minutes after the game, Russian President Vladimir Putin called OAR men's hockey coach Oleg Znarok to congratulate him on the victory, Znarok said after the game.

Znarok brushed aside a question about whether the IOC's decision earlier in the day had served as extra motivation.

"We understood that was going to be the case and we took it calmly," he said. "Russia is in our hearts."

Germany, which came into the game as the underdog, was the world's eighth-ranked team last year and lost its first two games in the group stage. It entered Sunday with a total of 14 goals scored and 14 goals against.

The Russians, by contrast, had just one loss in Pyeongchang and a 23-6 goal advantage.

The game itself proved to be a see-saw battle between the two sides.

Russia dominated the shot count in the first period and got on the board with a slapshot from Vyacheslav Voinov with less than a second on the clock in the first period.

Voinov, who won two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings, said after the game that the feeling of victory at the Olympics was "a little bit different."

Germany tied the game halfway through the second period with a goal that had to be reviewed by referees before being credited to forward Felix Schutz.

There then followed a 24-minute stretch of scoreless action before the levee burst in the 53rd minute.

Gusev kicked off the frenzy with a wide-angle shot that caromed in off the facemask of German goaltender Danny Aus Den Birken.

Just 10 seconds later, Germany answered with a centering pass from Frank Mauer to Dominik Kahun, who was waiting in the slot to beat Russian netminder Vasili Koshechkin.

Germany's Jonas Mueller scored the go-ahead goal three minutes later to take a 3-2 lead that silenced the mostly Russian crowd.

With two minutes and 11 seconds left in the third, the Russians were dinged with a two-minute tripping penalty to Sergei Kalinin, forcing Team OAR to pull its goalie just to keep five skaters on the ice.

The bet paid off with 56 seconds left in the game, as Gusev again played the hero, lunging at a loose puck in front of the German net and flicking it past Aus Den Birken with a two-handed backhand.

In overtime, the Germans kept up until forward Patrick Reimer was hit with a high-sticking penalty nine minutes into sudden death.

The Russians wasted no time, laying siege to the German goaltender. Just 29 seconds into the power play, Gusev fed a cross-ice pass to Kaprizov, who was waiting with a one-timed slapshot that flew past Aus Den Birken.

German captain Marcel Goc, a former NHL journeyman, struggled to hide his disappointment.

"There were a lot of momentum swings," he said after the game. "We were this close."

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 25, 2018 04:30 ET (09:30 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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