Celebrating his inauguration as Russian president in typical macho style, Vladimir Putin scored a goal, made an assist and converted a penalty as his team clinched a last gasp victory in his new favourite sport of ice hockey.
Fresh from beginning his historic third mandate as president just hours before, Putin came onto the ice at the gala game at Moscow's Megasport stadium late Tuesday to what state television described as a rapturous reception.
Putin, wearing number 11, came on in the final period with his team of Russian amateurs somehow managing to keep pace with a squad of Russian and Soviet legends, losing just 3:4.
Within minutes of his first appearance, the legends' defence seemed to magically vanish into thin air, allowing Putin through to deftly slot the puck into the back of the net and equalise.
Putin then made an assist for a fellow hockey lover, well known Russian saxophonist Igor Butman, to make the score 5:4. The legends then equalised themselves.
The referee then decreed that the match be decided by penalties. And who should appear for the decisive shot? Putin flicked the puck past the mountainous goaltender -- who somehow avoided getting in the way of the softly-struck shot -- and his team had won.
The crowd roared, including Berlusconi, who as pro-Kremlin NTV television pointed out was accompanied by a "blond female translator".
Putin, who proudly touts his prowess in tough-guy sports like judo, took up ice hockey only recently. He takes coaching from top ex-players and is believed to often play well after midnight.
He once compared his skills to a "cow on ice". Putin has said that when the first protests against his rule broke out in December, he was playing ice hockey.
Source: AFP Global Edition