Photo credit: Reuters

Mikael Granlund’s eye-popping goal was all Finland needed to best Russia for the second time this week, but the Finns still plied on while Russia’s offense looked lifeless. The 3-0 loss for Russia ends their chance at gold — they will face the Czech Republic for bronze Sunday at 10:00 AM Eastern Time — while Finland will move onto the championship game against Sweden.

Alex Ovechkin was more of a factor Friday than any other game in the tournament, though unluckily for him, in a negative way. The Great Eight was called for two slashing penalties after poking Finnish goalie Petri Vehanen on multiple occasions, while failing to convert on great chances to score. He finished the game a minus-one while registering five shots on goal and 18:31 of ice time. In five games since joining the team, Ovi has neither scored a goal or tallied an assist. Ouch.

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With a thrilling third period comeback against Canada, Team Russia and Alex Ovechkin are off to the semi-finals of the World Championships in Slovakia. Down, 1-0, midway through the final frame, Alexei Kaigorodov converted on a shorthanded breakaway to knot the score. Then, just over three minutes later, the Devils’ 100 million dollar man Ilya Kovalchuk rifled home a one-timer from the slot to give the Russians the lead and send their arch-rival home empty handed. Russia will face Finland, with the winner going to the gold metal game, on Sunday.

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Ovi to soccer ball: “I must stop you.” (All photos taken by Pavel Lysenkov of Sovietsky Sport)

Ahead of its quarter-final matchup Thursday with Canada, Team Russia assistant coach Igor Zakharkin ordered his players to abandon the team’s scheduled morning practice and instead play soccer at Rapid Stadium in Bratislava. Much like former Capitals head coach Ron Wilson, who would arrange team-building bowling outings when the Caps were struggling, Zakharkin is looking to take pressure off of his team.

Russia, who has lost two straight games and is 3-3 overall in the tournament, has not gelled at any point during their time in Slovakia and has played in five straight one-goal games. The dominant team that had won 27 straight World Championship games last year has not appeared. If they lose against Canada, Russia will be eliminated.

Zakharkin spoke with Sovietsky Sport’s Dmitri Ponomarenko and Vitaly Slavin about his decision to avoid the rink today and also discussed the shirtless soccer goalie above, Alex Ovechkin. Fedor Fedin has your translation.

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Finland Beats Russia, 3-2; Ovechkin Speaks

Photo credit: Matthew Manor

After being mostly a non-factor in Team Russia’s loss Sunday, Alex Ovechkin was back in action Monday afternoon against Finland as he looked to regain his form. Ovi was certainly more noticeable against the Finns, registering an impressive nine shots on goal in 18:29 of ice time while failing to convert on a breakaway. Despite his efforts, Russia was defeated for the second day in a row, this time narrowly, 3-2, in the shootout. With Canada beating Sweden, 3-2, later in the day, a sure to be intense match-up of arch-rivals is set for the quarter-finals on Thursday between Russian and the Great White North.

Below, friend of the blog Aleksey Imaev translates the Great Eight’s video interview on Saturday with Russian website (Igor was unavailable and is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury). The clip was only viewable in Russia until RMNB’s Fedor Fedin stepped in, so props to him.

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Alex Ovechkin: still visibly shaken after the Capitals’ stunning playoff defeat (photo via Sashastolemyheart on Tumblr).

After arriving in Bratislava, Slovakia just hours earlier, Alex Ovechkin took to the ice for his first practice with Team Russia on Saturday. Despite the Capitals’ crushing and humiliating elimination from the playoffs less no more than three days old, he was all smiles on the ice. Though Ovechkin played through numerous injuries this season, Capitals General Manager George McPhee told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Thursday he had no problems with the Great Eight suiting up for his motherland at the Worlds rather than taking the time to rest up.

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After getting the green light from the Capitals organization on breakdown day, Alex Ovechkin left the United States Friday for the 2011 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia. Ovechkin, who had to endure an eight hour flight from DC to Vienna, was then driven by IIHF representatives to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, just in time for a noon practice at Orange Stadium. He had almost no break.

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