Blowout City

VANCOUVER – It was supposed to be a game for the ages. Canada vs. Russia, Crosby vs. Ovechkin, history vs. tradition, the current host vs. the next host.

There were fireworks, but that much anticipated matchup became a mix of the All Star Game and a really bad Super Bowl. Scoring a plenty, but the end result was a big fat blowout that left little doubt just a few minutes in.

“We were not surprised about how they were going to start,” Ovechkin said of the Canadians. “I think we were not ready for the first five minutes of the game.

“When we woke up it was too late. It was 3-0.”

Canada scored just 2:41 into the game when Dan Boyle rushed into the zone and put the puck right on Ryan Gretzlaf’s stick for a tip in. Some eight minutes later, Boyle added a power play goal to the tally with Patrick Marleau setting a screen on Russian goaltender Evgeni Nabokov in front. Rick Nash added another just 46 seconds later, and all of a sudden the rout was on.

“It felt good being rewarded for the hard work we were putting in,” Canadian forward Sidney Crosby said. “We played well as a group on every side of the puck.”

When Shea Weber’s slapper made it 6-1 just four minutes into the second, Nabokov’s night was over, as the Sharks goaltender had yet another disappointing performance on the biggest stage in the sport. The Canadians made it 7-3 when Corey Perry scored midway through the period with the final 30 minutes serving as a national celebration.

“We knew that with the crowd behind them, that they were going to come,” Nabokov said. “They scored the [first] goal, and then after that they kept coming and we weren’t able to stop the bleeding. The shot differential tells it all.”

The Russian offense, considered by many to be the best in the tournament, was held largely in check. Ovechkin found the scorers sheet just once in the third period, serving a too many men on the ice call for his team. He was also serenaded by the sold out crowd with chants of ‘Ovie, Ovie’ with the game well out of reach. Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin managed assists, but Malkin was also stopped on a breakaway in the third period, much to the delight of the hometown crowd.

“Our defense did a great job, not only on Ovechkin, but on their top guys,” goaltender Roberto Luongo said. “They like the one-on-one, so we were right on them every time and they couldn’t do much.

This wasn’t just a blowout, but a release for the host city and the host nation that believes a gold medal is part of their destiny. The mood around the busiest area of the Olympic City—Granville and Robson Streets—was subdued in the wake of Canada’s 5-3 loss to the Americans on Sunday evening.

“It’s going to be one country’s game, but we try to prove it on a regular basis it’s ours,” Head Coach Mike Babcock said. “I’m a bit of a redneck and think it’s ours.”

The sleeping giant awoke Wednesday night, and one could get the sense that the Canadians took every bit of frustration that had been building over the last week and a half and just let it out.

“You could really feel the crowd, the energy,” Eric Staal said. “You hear a lot about the pressure, but for us it is definitely an advantage to have the whole country cheering you on.”

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