SOCHI, Russia – Carrying a surprisingly stagnant offense, Alex Radulov had two goals and an assist in leading Russia to a 4-0 qualification round victory over Norway, setting up a quarterfinal between the Olympic host nation and Finland on Wednesday.
Not bad for a guy who was considered the goat in the Russians’ preliminary round loss to the U.S.
It was Radulov that sat in the penalty box as the Americans scored two power-play goals. But the former Nashville Predators winger began his road to redemption with a shootout goal in Russia’s preliminary victory against Slovakia; and he was the best offensive player on the ice for the Russians in their qualification round win vs. Norway.
After a scoreless, frustrating first period for the Russians, Radulov broke through 4 minutes and 12 seconds into the second. He skated around the Norwegian goal and then sent a sneaky change-up of a shot through the five-hole of Lars Haugen for the lead, sparking a deafening ovation from the partisan crowd.
At 12:59 of the second, Radulov set up Russia’s second tally. Again, he made a power move behind the Norway net, his shot ringing off the left post. It pinballed there, before Ilya Kovalchuk knocked it home for the 2-0 lead.
Radulov added an empty netter, and Alexei Tereshenko scored another for Russia for the 4-0 final.
Radulov now has 3 goals and 3 assists in four games.
That would be all that Sergei Bobrovsky would need, playing strong in a 22-save performance – strong enough where one wonders if the Russians will rotate back to Semyon Varlamov for the Finland game or not.
The Russian victory wasn’t without its problems. They were too passive in the first period, again allowing an inferior opponent to linger -- one that was missing its best offensive player, Mats Zuccarello. Their power play was 0-for-3 and is now 2-for-16 for the tournament. Valeri Nichushkin’s line saw the bench for most of the third. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin were held scoreless again.
But the most important number was on the scoreboard, and the Russians continue their push for Sochi gold against the Finns on Wednesday.