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Team Russia

Alex Ovechkin, Team Russia move on after tough loss

Captain looks ahead to next game after tying goal in final seconds disallowed against Team Sweden

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Alex Ovechkin thought the puck hit his stick.

If a video review had confirmed that, the prospects for Team Russia in the World Cup of Hockey 2016 would look a lot brighter right now. Instead, it is facing questions about how a team loaded with offensive firepower struggled to produce quality scoring chances in a 2-1 loss to Team Sweden at Air Canada Centre on Sunday.

In a difficult Group B, Team Russia already finds itself in a near must-win situation heading into its second preliminary round game against Team North America on Monday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN 2, SN, TVA Sports). With three games in round-robin play to earn one of the group's two semifinal berths, the clock ticks a lot faster after a loss.

"Every loss is a tough loss, especially in a World Cup," Team Russia right wing Vladimir Tarasenko said. "All we need to do now is just win the next two games."

Through more than 59 minutes on Sunday, Team Russia was repeatedly frustrated by Team Sweden and its surprise starting goalie, Jacob Markstrom, who was subbing for an ill Henrik Lundqvist. Then, with 33 seconds remaining and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky pulled for a sixth attacker, Ovechkin's shot from the left point went through Nikolay Kulemin's screen and in off the right post.

Video: SWE@RUS: Ovechkin puts Russia on scoreboard in 3rd

Suddenly, the frustration for Team Russia turned to hope.

It still had hope after Team Sweden iced the puck with 10.6 seconds remaining. Team Russia center Pavel Datsyuk won the ensuing left-circle faceoff back to Andrei Markov, who set up Tarasenko for a one-timer from the high slot. Markstrom made the save, but left a rebound to his right that Ovechkin tried to knock down with his left hand.

The puck carried into the net with 8.2 seconds remaining and Ovechkin and Team Russia celebrated, but referee Dan O'Rourke immediately signaled no goal. Although an adamant Ovechkin protested that the puck deflected off the shaft of his stick after it hit his left glove, the video review upheld the call on the ice that Ovechkin directed the puck in with his hand and Team Russia came up one goal short.

"I thought I touched it," Ovechkin said. "To be honest with you, I didn't see the replay. But I felt the touch. I don't know if it was the puck or the stick. I definitely felt the touch on my hand on my stick. It doesn't matter right now. It's over, so we have to forget about it and move forward."

That was the prevailing attitude for Team Russia. Dwelling on the disallowed goal won't do them any good.

"It was the referee's decision, so there is no reason to talk about it," Tarasenko said.


Team Russia had the players with the three hardest shots in the game: defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Andrei Markov (95 mph) and forward Alex Ovechkin (94 mph).


More of a concern is finding a way to score more than one goal. Despite a collection of all-star forwards that includes Ovechkin, Tarasenko, Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, Nikita Kucherov and Artemi Panarin, Team Russia was limited mostly to outside shots against Markstrom, who made 27 saves.

Even Ovechkin's goal came from 57 feet away from the net. But there was a lesson in that goal in that Kulemin went to the front of the net to obstruct Markstrom's vision. And Ovechkin's rebound chance on the disallowed goal was one of the few second chances Team Russia had all game.

For most of the game, it was guilty of looking for a better shot and a nicer play instead of simply getting the puck to the net against a goaltender who didn't learn he would play until an hour before puck drop.

"Of course, we have big potential but we need more shooting," Datsyuk said. "Everybody tried to get in better position [to shoot] or set up a [linemate], but we needed to shoot more for a rebound and score a dirty goal."

Team Russia coach Oleg Znarok tried shuffling his line combinations in the third period, moving Tarasenko up to the top line with Ovechkin and Datsyuk and dropping Kucherov to the second line with Kulemin and Malkin. But, it wasn't until the final minutes that Team Russia was able to generate sustained pressure in Team Sweden's end.

Team Sweden deserved credit for tightening up its defense in front of Markstrom after a 6-2 loss to Team Europe in its final pretournament game on Wednesday, but Team Russia felt it could have done more.

Video: Markstrom, Landeskog help Sweden get past Russia

"They didn't give us any room in the first two periods and we played their way," Ovechkin said. "We just didn't have speed through the neutral zone or if we had speed we didn't have support, so we're trying to be one on one and we see it's not going to work. …  You can see how we played in the third period. Obviously, we scored only one goal in the last minute, but I think the chances were there."

After it failed to medal in each of the past three Olympics, there is pressure on Team Russia to have some success in the World Cup and re-establish itself as a hockey power. It still believes it can do that, but its margin for error is lot smaller now.

"Yes, we lost [Sunday], but we have a team and we always believe in the team and we believe in each other and we believe we can reach our goal here," Tarasenko said. "So nothing really, really bad happened. We have two more games and we need to get ready to be 100 percent [Monday]."

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