GANGNEUNG — The Olympic anthem was merely background noise, the doping scandal the farthest factor from their minds.
Because the white flag with the 5 Olympic rings rose towards the rafters Sunday following the gold medal recreation in males’s hockey, the champion Russians of their nondescript red-and-white uniforms joined their followers cloaked in pink, white and blue and belted out the “State Anthem of the Russian Federation,” drowning out the recorded music that was required as a part of Worldwide Olympic Committee sanctions.
This Olympic title meant a lot extra to the Russians, irrespective of that the match was lacking NHL gamers and the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” have been all right here solely after months of scandal.
Joyous gamers tossed coach Oleg Znarok within the air at centre ice as followers set free the identical “ROSS-I-YA” chants that crammed the world in Sochi 4 years in the past, the place dwelling ice meant nothing because the Russians misplaced within the quarterfinals. There was no such disappointment this time because the Russians triumphed within the match they have been favoured to win, capturing gold with a 4-Three time beyond regulation victory over Germany after Kirill Kaprizov’s power-play objective capped a traditional ultimate and gave the nation a jubilant second following weeks of disappointment.
“We understood the entire thing from the beginning so we have been calm about it,” Znarok mentioned. “Russia is in our hearts.”
The win got here just a few hours after the IOC determined in opposition to permitting the Russians to march beneath their flag within the closing ceremony Sunday evening after a roller and a bobsledder had optimistic drug assessments throughout the video games.
It didn’t appear to matter to the Russian gamers that they couldn’t put on the Russian Coat of Arms on their chests or that they received their first hockey gold medal since 1992 beneath the identical circumstances as 26 years in the past: enjoying beneath a impartial flag with the NHL opting to remain dwelling after collaborating previously 5 Olympics.
“The medal is identical with or with out the NHL,” mentioned defenceman Slava Voynov, who scored the opening objective with 0.5 seconds left within the first interval. “Perhaps the match was a bit completely different, however the feelings and happiness are the identical.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin made a phone name to Znarok after the victory, which gave the nation its second gold and 17th total medal of the Olympics.
Even with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Bobrovsky again in North America, this gold medal was notably candy due to the backdrop of sanctions and the Russians’ virtually three-decade drought. After Worldwide Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel put the primary Russian hockey medals of any color since 2002 across the necks of every participant, Russian Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretiak — a three-time Olympic gold medallist and Soviet Corridor of Fame goaltender — gave out handshakes and hugs.
Successful this gold medal at his fifth Olympics meant extra to 39-year-old captain Pavel Datsyuk than the 2 occasions he lifted the Stanley Cup.
“If you play in your nation and I win this medal, this particular time it’s extra necessary,” Datsyuk mentioned. “I’ve achieved my dream. Now I’ve no dream.”
The dream Russia couldn’t attain with NHL stars lastly occurred with Kaprizov scoring the winner on the ability play 9:40 into time beyond regulation as Patrick Reimer sat within the penalty field for a high-sticking infraction.
A silver medal gave Germany its finest end on the Olympics after capturing bronze in 1932 and 1976.
“All of us thought we’d be sitting at dwelling watching that ultimate on the sofa at dwelling, however right here we’re,” Germany coach Marco Sturm mentioned. “The boys are going to deliver silver dwelling, and they need to be very proud.”
Beating Germany, which shocked eventual bronze-medallist Canada to achieve the ultimate, gave the Russians their first gold medal in hockey since 1992 in Albertville after they competed because the Group of Unbiased States.
This one was anticipated all alongside.
Stocked with former NHL gamers — Datsyuk, Voynov, Ilya Kovalchuk, Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Nesterov — the Russians have been by far essentially the most proficient crew within the match. U.S. coach Tony Granato mentioned they could be pretty much as good as 20 of the 31 NHL groups.
Oddsmakers made the Russians the favorite, they usually confirmed it after a gap loss to Slovakia, getting higher because the match went on, which was a whole reversal from Sochi.
“It means lots,” mentioned Kovalchuk, who was voted match MVP. “This was my dream from after I was 5 years outdated after I began to play.”
The ability primarily from the Kontinental Hockey League was on full show with the gold medal at stake — and the Russians wanted it in opposition to disciplined, opportunistic Germany, which had all of its gamers from leagues in its homeland.
Voynov, on the Olympics as a result of he was banned from the NHL in 2015 for a home abuse conviction, scored what might’ve been a back-breaking objective with 0.5 seconds left within the first interval, however Germany obtained a very good bounce on a fluky tying objective by Felix Schultz halfway by way of the second. That set the stage for a wild third interval.
Russia’s Nikita Gusev scored when his shot bounced in off the helmet of Danny aus den Birken, however Dominik Kahun answered 10 seconds later. And when Jonas Muller slid the puck previous Russian goaltender Vasily Koshechkin with 3:16 left after which Russia took a high-sticking penalty, it appeared like a serious upset was on faucet.
As a substitute, with Koshechkin pulled for the additional attacker to make it 5-on-5, Gusev scored once more to assist ship the sport to time beyond regulation. A penalty on Reimer gave Russia an influence play and Kaprizov scored one of many greatest objectives in Russian hockey historical past.
The Russians and Germany gave viewers one thing to recollect to wrap up a match that was in any other case forgettable due to the dearth of NHL stars and tepid curiosity in a nontraditional hockey nation.
As dejected German gamers stood ready for his or her silver medals, Russian gamers skated a lap across the ice to wave at and thank the followers who got here to assist them at an Olympics the place they appeared like outcasts.
“With the assist of our followers and family members, a giant thanks,” Datsyuk mentioned. “It’s not a straightforward time for us and it means lots to us.”
With recordsdata from Teresa M. Walker and James Ellingworth