Kovalchuk: ‘Radulov doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone’

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After wearing the goat horns in Russia’s lone defeat at the Olympics, Alexander Radulov has responded with a pair of big performances — but, according to his linemate, it’s not like Radulov has to make amends.

“Radulov doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone,” Ilya Kovalchuk said, per IIHF.com. “He is usually very energetic, he moves a lot and creates opportunities.

“He is a good player.”

To call Radulov a polarizing figure is putting it lightly. His time in Nashville was a soap opera and his return to the KHL hasn’t been without issue (he was stripped of his captaincy last year.) In Sochi, that narrative’s continued — Radulov took a pair of bad penalties against the U.S. in Saturday’s dramatic shootout defeat, the second of which led to an American goal.

Russian head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov was furious following the game. Speaking through a translator, Bilyatdinov singled out Radulov and suggested that he should be scratched “among other things.” Radulov also took a beating in the press:

A columnist from Sport-Express newspaper, Slava Malamud, compared watching Radulov play to seeing a horror movie where a young woman descends into the basement and into danger.

“Viewers can guess what awaits the young woman going into the dark basement, but they still scream when destiny catches up to her,” he wrote.

A headline from Championat.com, a leading Russian sport portals, said: “Thank you, Radulov, for an extra match,” in anticipation of Russia having to win another game to advance.

And that’s when Radulov rebounded.

He wasn’t scratched against the Slovaks — rather, he scored the shootout-winning goal and played a whopping 22:19, including a team-high 9:45 in the third period. Radulov then followed with a stellar effort in a 4-0 win over Norway, scoring twice, finishing with three points and earning high praise from his coach.

“He was dynamic and he was effective and he got better throughout the game,” Bilyaletdinov said, per the Olympic News Service.

This is Radulov in a nutshell. Four days ago? Drop him from the lineup. Today? He leads the Russian team in scoring.

All in a week’s work.