Wednesday, February 17, 2010
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Ovechkin scores 2 to help Russia beat Latvia 8-2

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[February 17, 2010]  VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Alex Ovechkin scored late in the first period to give the Russians a three-goal lead and early in the third to restore a four-goal cushion to set up an 8-2 rout against Latvia on Tuesday night.

Hardware"We practiced once," Sergei Fedorov said.

That was enough.

The Latvians avoided a shutout when Herberts Vasiljevs scored in the opening seconds of the final period.

The Russians responded with two goals -- including Danis Zaripov's second -- in less than a minute to restore order in their Vancouver Games opener.

Russia's Evgeni Nabokov made 18 saves, and Edgars Masalskis stopped 37 shots for Latvia.

The Russians are a popular pick to win Olympic gold for the first time since 1992, when it competed as the Unified team. They have some of the NHL's top talent on their roster and loaded up the team with many players from the KHL.


Russia beat Latvia 9-2 early in the 2006 Olympics and finished the Turin Games with a loss to the Czech Republic in the gold-medal game.

The Soviet Union won eight of 10 Olympics -- losing only to the United States in 1980 and 1960 -- in a stretch that ended with the Unified Team of former Soviet Union republics getting to the top of the medal stand in 1992.

Russian general manager Vladislav Tretiak, a famed international goalie, said the keys to winning the tournament for the first time in almost two decades will be goaltending, playing with discipline to avoid penalties and taking advantage of power plays.

His talent-laden team committed too many penalties and was shaky with an extra skater, but got away with it against the undermanned Latvians who have won just two Olympic games in 13 chances.

The Baltic nation has just two players on its roster from the NHL: Oskars Bartulis of the Philadelphia Flyers and Karlis Skrastins of the Dallas Stars.

It has 16 of their 23 players from Dinamo Riga of the KHL, hoping their chemistry would help out.

Perhaps it will against another team.

[to top of second column]

Not the Russians.

Unlike the powerhouse Canadians who got off to a slow start before rolling past Norway 8-0, Russia struck quick.

Zaripov scored 2:38 into the game off a cross-crease pass from Fedorov.

Alexander Radulov scored midway through the first period with an assist from Fedorov.

"I was nervous before the game," said the 40-year-old Fedorov. "I still got some legs left."

After the KHL standouts started the scoring barrage, the NHL's best got going.

Ovechkin scored his first goal in the final minute of the first period, and Evgeni Malkin made it 4-0 late in the second on a power-play goal, stunting some confidence the scrappy Latvians seemed to be building after denying the Russians the first five times they had an extra skater.


Latvia's boisterous drum-banging, flag-waving fans -- one of whom entertained the crowd by dancing in the aisles -- erupted 33 seconds into the third period when Vasiljevs wheeled between the circles and got a shot past Nabokov.

But then they were silenced by Russian's jaw-dropping talent that combined to score three goals in just over 2 minutes capped by Ilya Kovalchuk's goal that made it 7-1.

[Associated Press; By LARRY LAGE]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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