The National Hockey League's Russian superstars did not fare well in the 2012 NHL Playoffs, but the Russians who exited the postseason early helped Team Russia capture the gold medal at the 2012 IIHF World Championships this weekend for the third time in the last five years.
Pavel Datsyuk and the Detroit Red Wings suffered an early exit at the hands of the Nashville Predators, while Evgeni Malkin's Pittsburgh Penguins were bounced in the first round by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Washington Capitals' talented Russian duo, Alexander Semin and Alexander Ovechkin, were also eliminated. They fell to the New York Rangers one round after knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
While the four staples of the Russian roster combined to drop 15 NHL playoff games this spring, Russia's skill players lifted the team to a perfect 10-0 record at this year's World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. Russia and the Soviet Union now have a combined 23 gold medals at the event.
Malkin, who was shut down in Pittsburgh's opening-round series against Philadelphia, was the leading scorer at the World Championships with 19 points. He became the first player since Wayne Gretzky (1982) to lead the tournament in scoring and capture the NHL's Art Ross Trophy in the same season.
Russia's big guns all came out firing in the gold medal game against Slovakia. Semin netted a pair of goals, and Datsyuk and Malkin each found the back of the net. Ovechkin collected a pair of assists in the 6-2 victory. Zdeno Chara scored the only two goals for the Slovaks.
Team Russia will now have the top seed for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will take place in Sochi, Russia.