Russia's push for gold in the men's ice hockey at the 2014 Winter Olympics remains alive, despite another uncomfortable match. The host nation's under-pressure side overcame a slow start to eliminate Norway 4-0.
With the first period of their sudden-death playoff match with Norway at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi ending 0-0, Russia finally broke through just over four minutes into the second. CSKA Moscow winger Alexander Radulov's backhand shot sparked his side, also ending a scoreless run of more than 100 minutes of play for Russia.
Ilya Kovalchuk made it 2-0 shortly before the final break, with Radulov's second and a goal to Alexei Tereshenko adding some comfort to the scoreline in the third period.
But Russia - ranked third in the International Ice Hockey Federation's world rankings - still has their form concerns. They needed a shootout to see off Slovakia in the final group match, and need a much-improved performance when they meet Finland in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Russia's progress has been intensely followed by a domestic audience clamoring for a medal in one of the marquee Winter Olympic events.
In Russia's favor is their strong goaltending performance, with Sergei Bobrovsky's 22-save shut-out of Norway ensuring his side has not conceded in just over 140 minutes. Coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov has alternated his goaltenders from match to match, with Semyon Varlamov keeping Slovakia at bay in the final group match.
Earlier, Slovenia dumped Austria out of the event courtesy of their own 4-0 win, while Latvia and Slovakia advanced. Russia's women's side finished sixth overall after falling to Finland 4-0. Germany held off Japan 3-2 to finish seventh.
Vaultier wins first gold of day
In the men's snowboard cross, France's Pierre Vaultier held off hard-charging Russian Nikolay Olyunin to win gold. En route to Tuesday's first medal, Vaultier, 26, won all four of his races in a steady drizzle that created plenty of chaos. Alex Deibold of the United States grabbed bronze after narrowly edging his teammate Trevor Jacob.
Monday's fog had pushed the event to Tuesday and forced officials to cancel the seedings run and go straight to elimination rounds. However, conditions did not markedly improve 24 hours later. Drizzle on Tuesday slowed the course and made for chunky and unpredictable snow. A series of crashes meant that several riders failed to even finish the race.
In the men's 15 km biathlon, Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen triumphed, beating, respectively, France's Martin Fourcade and the Czech Ondrej Moravec. In the short track 3000m relay, South Korea took gold, with Canada taking silver and Italy getting bronze.
Germany's first medal of Tuesday came in the alpine skiing giant slalom, when Viktoria Rebensburg won bronze. Slovenia's Tina Maze took gold, and Austria's Anna Fenninger got the silver.
Germany got their second medal of the day in the Nordic 10 km Individual Large Hill event. Fabian Riessle won his first Winter Olympic medal by taking bronze, behind a Norwegian one-two of Joergen Graabak and Magnus Hovdal.
There was a clean sheet for the Netherlands in the men's 10,000 m speed skating. Jorrit Bergsma finished 4.57 seconds ahead of countryman Sven Kramer, with Bob de Jong a distance third to close out all three placings for the Dutch.
David Wise of the US added to his nation's growing medal tally by winning gold in the men's ski halfpipe, with his first run score of 92.00 - he failed to complete a clean second run in tough conditions - enough to beat out Mike Riddle of Canada and Frenchman Kevin Rolland.
'The big shots'
In the men's curling tie-breaker, Norway led by one in its curling match against Britain. However, David Murdoch took a risk, going for the win over taking the match safely into sudden-death and sent a perfect final stone that ricocheted a second rock into Norway's counter, giving Britain two, and the match.
Britain will now play Sweden in the last four on Wednesday, with Canada taking on China in the other semifinal. Earlier in the competition, Britain had looked safely on course for the semis but lost their last three group games, including one to Norway, the 2010 silver medalists, forcing the two teams into the playoff.
"The standard of that game was incredible," Murdoch said. "But we are not scared of going for the big shots."
mkg, ph/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)