Sudden-death Russia hail hockey gold, sing banned anthem
Gangneung (South Korea), Feb 25 (AFP) Russians ended a 26-year Olympic men's hockey title drought Sunday and capped their dramatic 4-3 over-time victory over Germany by singing their banned national anthem on the ice.
Kirill Kaprizov scored the power-play goal that will be forever remembered in Russian hockey history 9:40 into the extra period, producing the only Russian men's gold at the Pyeongchang Games.
"Everybody is up in Russia and they are celebrating. Monday will be a holiday in Russia," Russian top scorer and tournament Most Valuable Player Ilya Kovalchuk said. "It feels good to do something like that for the country."
Kaprizov's goal began a joyous celebration as the Russian squad raced onto the ice for hugs and laughter while flag-waving supporters roared with delight.
"It's a very big moment," Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk said. "We're all happy and especially in this moment for Russia."
Germany's Patrick Reimer was sent into the penalty box for a high stick on Datsyuk, setting the stage for Kaprizov's emotional decider.
"It feels good but I have accomplished my dream," Datsyuk said. "Now I have no dream."
Russia -- competing in South Korea under a neutral flag as "Olympic Athletes from Russia" -- had not won hockey gold since the 1992 Albertville Games.
Then they represented the Unified Team, only a few weeks after the breakup of the Soviet Union, whose hockey dynasty captured eight Olympic golds.
This year's Russians were unable to see their flag raised or hear their anthem played as part of the punishment for the systemic doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
But as the Olympic flag rose and Olympic anthem played, Russian teammates linked arms and joined supporters in singing the Russian national anthem, their voices drowning out the recorded music in an emotional moment.
"It felt great," Kovalchuk said. "We knew we would do it if we won."
-Datsyuk now golden oldie -
Denied even their usual uniforms, the Russians opted for one resembling the NHL Detroit Red Wings, who boasted championship teams known for Russian stars.
After being presented medals by retired Soviet goalie legend Vladislav Tretiak, the Russians took a victory lap and saluted the fans who cheered them loudly.
"It was the higher powers from above who granted us these medals," Russia's Andrei Zubarev said.
Russia's only previous gold at Pyeongchang went to women's figure skater Alina Zagitova.
With NHL players absent for the first Olympics since 1994, it was a German league all-star squad against the best of Russia's two top clubs.
Former NHL stars Kovalchuk and Datsyuk, who each took 2002 bronzes for Russia, finally captured gold in their fifth Olympic appearances.
"When I started playing it was my dream and goal to win the Olympic gold medal for the nation," Kovalchuk said. "It took me almost 30 years but it feels really good."
Datsyuk, at 39 years and 220 days, became the oldest gold medallist in Olympic men's hockey history, surpassing Britain's Carl Erhardt from 1936.
- 'We could have won' -
The Germans were seconds from pulling off a Wunder auf Eis (Miracle on Ice) upset before Russian Nikita Gusev's shorthanded equaliser with 55.5 seconds remaining led to the sudden death extra period.
Finally they settled for silver but also their best-ever Olympic finish, surpassing bronzes in 1932 and as West Germany in 1976.
"It's a little tough right now, because we all felt like we could have won that game," German coach Marco Sturm said.
"But we all thought (before) that we would be sitting on the couch at home having a beer and watching the final on television."
Gusev netted a steep-angle shot with 6:39 remaining in regulation time for a 2-1 lead, only for Germany's Dominik Kahun to equalise 10 seconds later.
Jonas Muller put the Germans ahead for the first time with 3:16 remaining, but Gusev struck again after the Russians pulled Koshechkin for an extra attacker.
"It was the craziest game ever," Kovalchuk said. "We knew that to be second, it's tough to be that