PITTSBURGH, Pa.—Alex Ovechkin and his teammates touted their World Cup tune-up against a loaded Team Canada squad as a chance to gauge themselves against the tournament’s prohibitive favorite.
Here’s what Team Russia learned from Wednesday’s entertaining 3-2 overtime loss at CONSOL Energy Center: while they may not boast as many NHL stars as Canada, they’re more than capable of hanging with Sidney Crosby and Co.
“It was a great match,” said Ovechkin, who tallied his first goal in three-pretournament games in the third period. '“Obviously, the first period was not our game. I think we have a slow start, we play kind of slowly and we afraid to make mistake. But in the second period, we play a great game. We played in their zone.”
Ovechkin added: “Mentally it was very important for us that we didn’t lose the game right away. We have a battle, get the lead. The boys feel much better right now for the future. …From our standpoint it was huge.”
Russia’s best player, without a doubt, was goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped 45 shots, including quality attempts from Claude Giroux and Crosby in the waning seconds of regulation.
“Both goalies play very well,” Ovechkin said. “[Carey] Price stopped great opportunities for myself and the rest the team. Same as Bob.”
Russia’s second best player was Ovechkin, who recorded his first point with a 5-on-3 power play tally at 3:40 of the third period. The blast, from his office, knotted the game, 1-1. Ovechkin finished with four shots (tied for the team high) in 17:43 of ice time.
“It’s always nice to be on the scoreboard,” he said. “But right now it doesn’t matter if you score or not, you just have to feel the game, feel the rhythm.”
MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE: ALEX OVECHKIN COMMENTS ON DMITRY ORLOV'S SITUATION
Less than four minutes later, Russia took a 2-1 lead on a rebound goal from Artemi Panarin. But their edge was short-lived. John Tavares sneaked one past a screened Bobrovsky with 6:02 remaining in regulation.
Bobrovsky’s last minute heroics extended the game, but the Blue Jackets' netminder was helpless to stop Ryan Getzlaf’s breakaway during a wild 3-on-3 overtime session.
“It’s great but one mistake can cost you a goal,” Ovechkin said of the World Cup overtime format. “It’s kind of 50-50, same like a penalty shot.”
Despite the loss, Capitals' star Evgeny Kuznetsov was wowed by Bobrovsky’s effort.
“He’s in great form right now,” Kuznetsov said. “All we have to do is just give him chance to see the puck, and he will do his job.”
As for Kuznetsov, he got bumped down to the fourth line after skating on the top line with Ovechkin in the first two exhibition contests. The move, however, did not negatively impact Kuznetsov’s total playing time. He skated 17:38, including 6:38 on the power play.
“I don’t care which line I play,” Kuznetsov said. “All four lines [play]. It doesn’t mean anything. I can show you lots of teams who win the Cup and always fourth line is the best line on the team. That’s the [lesson] I learned from last year.”
Like Ovechkin, Kuznetsov left Pittsburgh heartened by Russia’s showing against Canada.
“We feel pretty good,” he said. “It was a great game by both teams. We had a bad start but the second and third period we control the game. All we have to do is just fix the power play (1 for 7) and put more pucks in the net, find some rebounds.”
Kuznetsov also said his left hand/wrist will be okay after replays showed him wincing in pain and applying a bag of ice to the area early in the second period.
“It’s nothing serious,” he said with a smile. “You know I am Iron Man.”
MORE CAPS: OVI NOT A FAN OF CURRENT NHL PLAYOFF FORMAT