Russian men open Olympic tournament with 8-2 dismantling of Latvia

By Josh Ferguson

Alex Ovechkin and Danis Zaripov each netted a pair of goals to lead Russia to an 8-2 victory over Latvia in Group B action at Canada Hockey Place Tuesday night.

The Russian attack came out flying in the first, outshooting its opponents 19-8, while creating countless turnovers from Latvian miscues.   

Zaripov opened the scoring 2:38 into the first when he buried a cross-crease saucer pass from Sergei Fedorov, a play that originated from a failed clearing attempt by Latvia.

After Alexander Radulov made it 2-0 at the 7:46 mark, Washington Capitals star Alexander Semin picked the pocket of a Latvian defender and dished the puck to a waiting Ovechkin who made no mistake from the hash marks to make it 3-0 going into the intermission.

Russia’s power play was non-existent in the early stages of the game and failed to capitalize on five opportunities before Evgeni Malkin backhanded home a rebound with 1:42 left in the second to make it 4-0.  Russia finished the game 1-for-8 on the power play, while Latvia went 0-for-5.

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The beginning of the third featured some explosive end-to-end action that saw the two teams combine for five goals on six shots in a span of 3:02. 

Latvian forward Herberts Vasiljevs gave his team a small glimmer of hope by making it 4-1 early in the third, but Ovechkin, Zaripov and Ilya Kovalchuk rattled off three goals on four shots to dismantle any chance of a Latvian comeback.

Girts Ankipans added a second marker for Latvia with a blistering slap shot from the left circle, but Russian captain and flag-bearer Alexei Morozov buried a late goal in the third to solidify the victory.

Russian netminder Evgeni Nabokov stopped 18 of 20 shots for the win.  At the other end, Latvian keeper Edgars Masalskis made 37 saves on 45 shots.

Russia (1-0) returns to Group B round robin action Thursday night against Slovakia. Latvia (0-1) will have to wait until Friday to continue its tournament when it battles the Czech Republic.