On a day when Slovakia upset the defending Olympic champions and Switzerland pushed the Americans to the brink of defeat, there was almost no bigger surprise than Canada's lopsided 7-3 win over Russia in the quarterfinals.
In the most anticipated game of the tournament—a clash of the titans that was expected either in the semifinals or the Gold medal game—the home country unexpectedly ran its arch-rivals out of the rink, most notably Russian goaltender Evgeni Nabokov who was burned for six goals on 24 shots.
Beginning with Ryan Getzlaf's goal 2:21 into the pivotal contest, Canada played like the dominant, physical team everyone expected coming into Vancouver. The country was not going to end its golden journey on home ice and played like a determined group unwilling to accept defeat.
Following Getzlaf's beautiful first goal to set the tone, the home side scored 46 seconds apart midway through the first period, on snipes by Dan Boyle and Rick Nash, and before Russia could wake up the game was out of reach at 3-0.
Even for the home crowd, which was immersed in a state of complete euphoria, there was a sense of shock at what was unfolding on the biggest international stage.
Coming into the tournament, a Canada-Russia meeting was touted as the great rivalry, the matchup every hockey fan wanted and anticipated—with the added bonus of watching NHL rivals Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin battle it out after last year's epic playoff bout.
Yet, while the rivalry could be seen and heard at Canada Hockey Place amidst the seige, the margin of victory was a complete shock to the hockey world, which expected another classic between the two countries.
Dmitri Kalinin pulled the Russians within a pair of goals on the power play, but Brenden Morrow restored the three-goal advantage on another suspect goal on Nabokov, who was shaky after Canada got out to the quick start. And like any Russian team, once they fell behind and were being pushed around by a superior Canadian squad, the defending world champions simply quit, the art of which they can perfect quite often, as fans witnessed.
Alexander Ovechkin was completely shut down by the defense pairing of Shea Weber and Scott Niedermayer, as were his linemates Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk.
Offensively, all the lines were clicking, especially the line of Getzlaf, Morrow, and Corey Perry, who combined for four goals and two assists in the win.
Crosby, Jarome Iginla, and Eric Staal were not the most productive line amidst the scoring barrage on Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov, but that line was also terrific in the offensive end, creating scoring chances and keeping the puck away from Russia's stars.
Moreover, it finally seems that Mike Babcock and his Canadian team, after working out the kinks in the preliminary round, have found the right line combinations and chemistry, which was evident in the rout against Russia.
As the host country prepares for the semifinals after its first Olympic win over Russia since the 1960 Winter Games, it's increasingly becoming the dominant team that every country feared would show up. That perception of Canada's stacked lineup was only reinforced after Russia's unexpected wake-up call that nobody saw coming.
Now it's Slovakia's turn to answer the bell and face the seemingly unstoppable Red and White machine.
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