Feb 18 2014, 11:21 AM EST -
By Steve Keating
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russia battled into the quarter-finals of the Olympic men's ice hockey competition on Tuesday with a 4-0 win over Norway that did little to inspire the host nation's gold medal hopes.
Russia will next face off against Finland on Wednesday for a spot in the semi-finals but the hard fought victory over winless Norway will not have provided much of a confidence boost.
Finland and Russia are old Olympic foes having met six times at the Winter Games with the Finns winning four.
An enthusiastic flag-waving capacity crowd filled the futuristic Bolshoy Ice Dome expecting a rout against the Norwegians but spent most of the game on the edge of their seats.
Despite having some of the world's top attacking talent, Russia have found goals hard to come by and again came out firing blanks against Norway in a scoreless opening period.
It marked the fourth consecutive period the Russians, with four of ice hockey's most dangerous players in Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, were unable to find the back of the net.
"We knew the opponent was going to play hard in the defensive zone," said Ovechkin. "In the first period we had some good chances, and played well.
"In the second, we had that big goal. I thought our work ethic was always pretty good.
"Everybody knows we have such a good, talented team on offence.
"We just try to keep our energy, and keep our emotion ... tomorrow we're going to have emotions and strength for the quarter-finals against Finland."
Alexander Radulov finally ended the goal drought early in the second on a brilliant solo effort, racing around behind the Norwegian net and sweeping a backhand between Lars Haugen's pads.
Kovalchuk calmed nerves later in the period when he banged home a loose puck to give the host nation a 2-0 cushion.
It looked like that was how the game would end until Russia potted a pair in the final 67 seconds, Radulov firing his second of the game into an empty before Alexei Tereshenko closed out the scoring from a goalmouth scramble.
Sergei Bobrovski made 22 saves to collect the shutout.
"We didn't score much, but it was a big win for us today," said Kovalchuk. "I think we play better and better with each game.
"I think we didn't give them much and that was a good sign.
"We have less than 24 hours to prepare for the next game. We have to take the time to prepare the best that we can."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)