Canada routs Russia, faces Slovaks in Semis.

 

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VANCOUVER—Canada didn’t need a complex game plan to wear down its biggest nemesis or punish Alex Ovechkin. Canada simply needed to be Canada.The Canadians ended 50 years of Olympic hockey frustration against the Russians, surging into the Olympic semifinals with a 7-3 romp over the world champions Wednesday by going back to the game they play best.A superpower showdown — one that may have been better suited for the gold-medal game than the quarterfinals — quickly became a super letdown as Canada manhandled the Russians’ star forwards, took control early and never backed off.It ended 7-3 and, for a while, it looked like it might be 17-3.The physical, focused Canadians took advantage of terrible goaltending by Evgeni Nabokov and superior depth and size to open leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in the first period and 6-1 early in the second period, and the unexpected rout was on. Ovechkin? Hockey’s most gifted scorer? He was a nonfactor — no goals and no impact, the kind of game he almost never plays.The resurgent Canadians meet the Sweden-Slovakia winner in Friday’s semifinals. If they advance, they might face the United States in a rematch of the 5-3 loss on Sunday.That disappointment marked their first Olympic loss to the U.S. since 1960; the punishing win over Russia was their first since the same tournament in Squaw Valley and only the second in 11 Olympic games against the Russians or Soviets.Corey Perry upstaged Russia’s big-name, big-contract forwards with two goals, Shea Weber also scored and set the tone by upending Maxim Afinogenov with a board-rattling hit in the opening seconds and Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and two assists. And Dan Boyle frustrated Nabokov, his NHL teammate, by scoring a power-play goal and creating two others in the first period.And that was only the start.Almost as surprising as the score was how Canada pulled it off. Sidney Crosby went scoreless in a subordinate role, with less celebrated players and grit negating Russia’s cast of stars and supposedly superior speed.Surprisingly, almost none of the pregame story lines played out, including Crosby vs. Ovechkin reprising hockey’s best individual rivalry. The Canadians also didn’t need a huge game in goal from Roberto Luongo or a shutdown defensive performance.They simply needed to go back to playing traditional, get-tough, can’t-knock-us-off-the-puck Canada hockey. And it worked better than coach Mike Babcock could have envisioned.Nabokov, whose NHL San Jose Sharks are perennial playoff underachievers, allowed several soft goals early, one to Sharks teammate Patrick Marleau, and the letdown was evident on a downcast Russian bench.Coach Slava Bykov didn’t pull Nabokov until Weber scored at 4:07 of the second to make it 6-1. Given the looks on the players’ faces, the move came about two or three goals too late. After the game, Bykov apologized to Russian fans for the disappointing performance.  Canada now faces Slovakiain the Semi Final round. The Slovaksedged Sweded 4-3 with the Blackhawks Tomas Kopecky scoring the winning goal

Corey Perry upstages a bunch of much bigger names and scores two goals for Canada. (US Presswire)  
Corey Perry upstages a bunch of much bigger names and scores two goals for Canada. (US Presswire)

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