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|Datsyuk steadies Russians in win over Norway.
18.02.2014. Helene St James. Gannett News Service
SOCHI, Russia _ Pavel Datsyuk spoke as what he is, the captain of a proud and determined team.
Datsyuk, who regularly dazzles as a superstar for the Detroit Red Wings, contributed three assists to put his Russia into a quarterfinal match opposite Finland on Wednesday.
"After first few games, lots of pressure, lots of nerves," he said. "Now it's tournament, more open."
Team Russia recovered from a subpar first period to hammer Norway, 4-0, Tuesday at Bolshoy Ice Dome. The Russians had to play a qualification game after failing to place among the top four seeds following group play. The Russians haven't looked imposing, yet, but Datsyuk sees progress.
He described Tuesday's score as "good result, what we needed," then spoke of needing to improve against Finland, a fourth seed that's rested since Sunday. The Finns lack offensive power, but their goaltending can leave opponents frustrated.
"They have good team, they skate well and have good goalie," he said. "Lots of guys from NHL."
Team Russia's strength is supposed to be an offense crammed with skilled forwards, but there was a power play against Norway that saw Russia fail to even register a shot on net. After four games, team Russia has two commanding victories, against Slovenia and Norway, a shootout victory over Slovakia, and a shootout loss to TEam USA.
The Finns are a wily, experienced team, and Russia will have to do as Datsyuk demands, and improve.
"It is already do or die," Alex Ovechkin said. "I'm pretty sure everybody is ready. Finland will be ready to play and we're going to be ready as well."
Ovechkin leads the NHL with 40 goals but has just one after four Olympic appearances. He downplayed his and line mates Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Popov's quiet tournament, saying that, "the most important thing right now is the team. It's not about personal stats, it's not about the goal scoring lead. We're here to win the gold, it's not about winning scoring titles and all the kind of stuff."
Team Russia is under intense pressure to win as hosts. The 11,423 fans who occupied Bolshoy for the qualification game overwhelmingly waved Russian flags, and seemed nervous after a scoreless first period. The Norwegians hadn't won any games before meeting Russia, but stood their ground thanks to a solid defensive effort the first 20 minutes.
Datsyuk set up Radulov four minutes into the second period, and helped put Russia up 2-0 on a goal from Ilya Kovalchuk. Datsyuk also assisted on Radulov's second goal.
Datsyuk enters the quarterfinals with five points after four games. He came into the tournament barely able to skate because of an inflamed knee, but, including the two games he played for Detroit before leaving for the Sochi Games, he's now six games into a comeback. He has taken to answering questions about himself as synonymous to his team.
"We feel OK," he said. "We feel OK."