Image copyright: newsday.com
GANGNEUNG, South Korea — The U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team now has a more difficult climb if it wants to win a medal.
The Olympic Athletes from Russia (2-1-0) pinned a 4-0 loss on the Americans (1-1-1). The USA will have to win a qualification game on Tuesday just to reach the quarterfinals.
Former NHL player Ilya Kovalchuk and Los Angeles Kings draft pick Nikolai Prokhorkin scored two goals each.
Under the Olympic format, the three group winners and the top second-place record receive byes into the quarterfinals. The remaining eight teams, seeded by record, compete for the final four quarterfinal spots. The No. 5 team will play the No. 12 team, No. 6 team will play the No. 11 team, etc.
The U.S. continues to struggle to score goals. In their three group games, they scored four goals. By contrast, Russia scored 14. The Americans were the lowest-scoring team in their group.
The Americans have speed and puck-moving ability, but they lack finishers. The Americans outshot the Russians 29-26, but the Russian players looked far more dangerous.
Vasili Koshechkin, 34, earned the shutout in net for the Russians. He made key stops, such as Brian Gionta’s breakaway when it was 2-0 game.
Kovalchuk’s first goal, coming with two-tenths of a second remaining in the second period, seemed to add a layer of discouragement to the Americans who had some puck possession in the second period.
Kovalchuk has played in the world’s second-best league, Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, since 2013 after retiring from the NHL despite having 12 years, $77 million left on his contract with the New Jersey Devils. He has recorded 417 goals in 816 career NHL games, with rumors that he wants to return.