Ovechkin, Malkin Lead Russians to World Championship
The third time was a charmski.
Denied at the Sochi Olympics and dumped out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin wasted no time wondering what might have been in 2014 and rushed to Minsk, the capital of Belarus and host of this year's IIHF World Championships. Their initiative was rewarded on Sunday with a 5-2 triumph over Finland in the title game.
Trailing 2-1 early in the second period, Ovechkin charged the net and backhanded a perfect feed from Vadim Shipachyov to tie Finland at 7:34, and eight minutes later, Malkin put Russia ahead to stay on this power play gem:
The 15,112 fans in the sold-out arena were decidedly pro-Russian -- the country's name, of course, is a derivative of the Slavic term for White Russia -- and they went home happy every time their favorites took the ice. The victors compiled a perfect 10-0 record during the course of the competition.
In fact, the club was so efficient, it didn't need Head Coach Oleg Znarok. Just as well, since he was suspended for making a throat-slash gesture at Swedish coach Rikard Grönborg during a heated argument in the semis.
Ovechkin served as the national team's captain for the first time since he led the Russians in the World Juniors at age 19, so accepting the hardware was a rare experience for him.
And unlike the Stanley Cup, it's doubtful anyone is going to kick it, sink it, take it inner-tubing, use it as a fireplace, or anything else that's been endured by the Guv's chalice.
Whether it gets loaded with vodka or caviar is another matter. The pressure on the Russians is off, for now. But no doubt their fearless leader -- not Ovie; the one who's trying to re-build the czar's empire -- is preparing to take matters into his own hands if Team Russia doesn't keep it going.
Tell that to Moose and Squirrel. In 2014, Russia's finally on a roll.