BRATISLAVA – Maybe Germany’s 2010 fourth-place finish wasn’t just a happy fluke after all. Germany clinched a Qualifying Round berth with its second straight win, stunning host Slovakia 4-3 Sunday night at Orange Arena.
Slovakia – Germany 3-4 (0-0, 0-3, 3-1) Game Sheet Photos
The Slovaks mounted a furious third-period rally after falling behind 4-0, but couldn't complete their comeback.
"We knew it wasn't going to be an easy game," said Slovakia's Milan Jurcina. "The luck was on their side."
The Deutschland dynamos have now beaten two premier medal contenders in a row, starting with Friday’s 2-0 win over Russia. Even the craziest gambler at the famous Baden-Baden Casino wouldn’t have laid money on this.
"I don't think Germany has ever won the group, but we'll definitely try to do that now," said Patrick Reimer.
German goalie Dmitri Pätzold outdueled Slovak starter Jaroslav Halak as Slovakia outshot Germany 38-29.
Marcel Müller and Felix Schütz led the German attack with a goal and an assist apiece, while John Tripp and Frank Hördler added singles. Christoph Ullmann chipped in a pair of helpers.
Ladislav Nagy had a goal and an assist for Slovakia, and Jozef Stümpel and Pavol Demitra also tallied.
Once again, the Germans prevailed thanks to disciplined, relentless box play, shot-blocking, and checking. Thus far, they’re living proof of what you can accomplish without a lot of finesse and with a whole lot of hard work.
Slovakia’s coach Glen Hanlon and his cohorts are under tremendous pressure to deliver a medal, and this result left an entire host nation crying in its pilsner.
In front of a chanting, throbbing sea of white home-team jerseys, forwards Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus made their tournament debut for Slovakia.
The Germans drew first blood at 4:51 of the second period when Müller converted Ullmann’s perfect cross-crease feed. The goal stunned the crowd, which had just begun to hop up and down in jubilant unison. It also put the Slovaks back on their heels, as they began to play a more passive, reactive game.
At 13:07 of the second, Germany jumped into a 2-0 lead. A Marian Hossa turn-over in the neutral zone enabled Schütz’s perfect cross-ice feed to Tripp on the rush, and the native of Kingston, Ontario one-timed home a high shot.
Three and a half minutes later, it was 3-0 Germany after Hördler took a nice centering pass from Ullmann and beat Halak high to the blocker side.
The fourth German marker came 4:37 into the third period when Schütz accepted Tripp’s backhand centering pass from behind the goal line and pounded it home.
Less than a minute later, Nagy whacked in a loose puck to halt Germany’s tournament-best shutout streak at 105:26. It gave the crowd something to cheer about. They might otherwise have been echoing sentiments from the national anthem: “This Slovakia of our has been fast asleep until now.”
At 8:49, Stumpel banged in a power play rebound to cut the deficit to 4-2, and German coach Uwe Krupp promptly called a timeout to settle his team down. Yet the Slovaks kept coming, and Demitra sent the place wild when he backhanded a Marian Hossa rebound high over Pätzold.
With two and a half minutes left, Demitra fired wide on a 2-on-1 set-up from Marian Hossa. The Slovaks couldn't score after pulling Halak late.
"We said that if they can score three in a period, so can we," said Jurcina. "With a few more minutes, we probably would have tied it."
"We didn't panic in the third period, and I think we deserved to win," countered Reimer.
The scoreless first period was a tale of missed chances.
Seven minutes in, Germany gave Slovakia an extended 5-on-3 power play, but the hosts couldn’t make them pay. The best chance came when Marian Gaborik hit the crossbar, with many thinking it might have gone in.
In an unusual sequence, Germany’s Reimer burst away on a clearcut shorthanded breakaway but was hauled down by Marian Hossa at 8:45. There had been no stoppage in play since Gaborik’s crossbar. Thus, before Reimer could take his penalty shot, which was foiled by Halak, the Gaborik play was video-reviewed and ruled no goal.
The last time Germany opened a World Championship with back-to-back wins was Finland 2003. The opposition, however, was considerably less formidable, including a 5-4 win over Japan and a 3-1 victory over Ukraine.
"Last year's home tournament helped us a lot, as we gained confidence," said Reimer. "Same with the win over Russia here."
Slovakia rounds out its Preliminary Round schedule versus Russia on Tuesday. The teams are tied with three points apiece. Germany faces winless Slovenia that day.