A HIt Heard 'Round the Olympics
VANCOUVER—It wasn't like Jaromir Jagr had his head down. He didn't. And still he couldn't avoid being crushed by the Alex Ovechkin Express.
With Russia leading the Czech Republic 2-1 early in the third period today, Jagr, who had been superb in his country’s first two games, gathered the puck on the right boards by his team's bench and began to weave his way through the neutral zone. As he moved to cross the large green, blue and red inukshuk that adorns centre ice, he shifted to his right and then was caught full on by a gorgeous Ovechkin bodycheck.
You know the kind of perfect, clean hit that in an NHL game would mean the player delivering the hit would immediately have to fight.
Anyway, Ovechkin's left shoulder caught the 38-year-old Jagr squarely in the chest/neck area, driving the veteran star backwards onto the ice. The Russians quickly headed down the ice with Evgeny Malkin finishing off the play with his second goal of the game to make it 3-1 Russia.
Held without a goal by Slovakia and for two periods by the Czechs, it was the kind of play that demonstrated how Ovechkin can be a game-changer even without putting the puck in the net.
Jagr's visor was cracked by the impact but he wasn't hurt, and popped back to his feet. The result of the play, however, was a goal and a change in momentum that made the Czechs temporarily sag.
"Before you ask a question, I know I made a mistake," said Jagr afterwards. "The hit I don't really care about. The mistake I made was turning over the puck and they scored. That hurt me the most."
MIlan Michalek did cut the Russian lead to 3-2 with just over five minutes to play, but the Czechs couldn't complete the comeback. Final score Russia 4, Czechs 2.
The Russians are now 2-1, set to get a bye through to the quarterfinals. Ovechkin's hit on Jagr may prove to be a medal-changing moment.