After scoring twice in the opening four minutes against Slovenia on Thursday, Russia looked like it was primed for a blowout win.
Just one problem — the Russians took their collective foot off the gas.
Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk acknowledged as much following the 5-2 win, saying a combination of the quick start and frenzied home crowd had an effect on the remainder of the contest.
“We started really well, but after when we got the lead 2-0, we played more casual,” Ovechkin said, per the Olympic News Service. “We can’t play like that in the future.”
Kovalchuk, who netted the eventual game-winner on a late second-period power play, said Russia was guilty of whipping the puck around too much and a hesitancy to fire away.
“In the second period we got too relaxed, but we gathered ourselves back in the third period,” he said. “We started to pass more in the second period, that is why we were told to shoot more during the break.”
The Russians out-shot Slovenia 18-4 in the first period, but just 17-10 over the final two frames. Slovenia gradually worked its way back into the game and trailed by just one goal heading into the third period, before Valeri Nichushkin and Anton Belov scored to put the contest out of reach.
It does have to be said, though, that Russia displayed tremendous energy and tenacity to start the game, led by the Ovechkin-Evgeni Malkin-Alex Semin line. The trio was responsible for both of the opening goals — Malkin set up Ovechkin for the first, Ovechkin set up Malkin for the second — and clearly fed off the electric atmosphere at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
“Crazy crowd, unbelievable atmosphere out there,” Ovechkin said. “It’s great. It’s unbelievable.”