COLOGNE – Led by their NHLers Frans Nielsen and Peter Regin, and goaltender Frederik Andersen, Denmark delivered the first upset of the tournament, when they beat Finland 4-1.
Peter Regin scored the game winning goal just 5:19 into the game.
Petteri Nummelin made history just by stepping onto the ice tonight, becoming the first player to have played in 15 top division World Championships, passing such legends as Jiri Holik and Sven Tumba (Johansson).
Tonight was about an historic moment, though.
“It feels awesome. This is one of the biggest results we have ever made and I think we deserved it tonight," said Frans Nielsen.
"It's the biggest ever, at least for me," added Kim Staal.
Just 2:20 in the game, celebrating Nummelin was about the last thing the Finns wanted to do as Julian Jakobsen found Nielsen in high slot and Nielsen beat Pekka Rinne in Finland’s goal with a low onetime on the glove side.
Two minutes and 59 seconds later, Peter Regin showed why the Danish federation so desperately wanted him to play in Cologne, and did everything to have his insurance covered. Regin got the puck on the red line, accelerated, and beat 18-year-old Sami Vatanen, playing in his first World Championship game on the blue line. Facing just Rinne, Regin made a deke to Rinne’s stick side, then sent a hard backhander to the top of the net, beating Rinne on the glove side.
"It was 20 guys working their ass off for 60 minutes, and excellent goaltending. If you work harder than the other team you always have a chance and that is what we did tonight," Peter Jensen said.
Everybody agreed that the Danes worked harder.
"We just didn't show up today. We didn't work hard enough, not nearly as much as they," said Finnish team captain Sami Kapanen.
Unlike in the Olympic semi-final against the U.S., where Finnish head coach Jukka Jalonen didn’t make a change until it was too late, he called a timeout at 2-0.
Maybe that was what the young and inexperienced team – nine players make their debuts in the World Championships – needed but they started to push Denmark to their heels, and Petri Kontiola took Finland to the board with a nice solo goal. Nummelin got him the puck by the hash marks, and Kontiola drove to the net, beating Frederik Andersen with a backhander.
Denmark also got into penalty trouble, taking four minor penalties in five and a half minutes but Finland couldn’t capitalize on their chances.
Finland outshot Denmark 37-16, but Andersen was unflappable.
"He was a good example for everybody today. Give him a lot of credit for the victory," Mads Christenen said.
The 20-year-old was modest about his game.
“That is how it is with goalies," he said, adding, "this is the biggest game I have played in my career."
The Danish shock therapy continued in the second period. Just 1:19 into it, Julian Jakobsen got the puck straight off the faceoff in the Finnish zone, and fired the puck top-shelf, giving the Danes a two-goal lead.
Even though Denmark didn’t make it easy for themselves, taking another three minor penalties, Finland didn’t step up, either. And whatever pucks found their way to the net, Andersen had no problems blocking.
"Powerplay is often a good reflection of the rest of the game. Had we worked hard to get into the game, the PP would have come, too," Kapanen said.
Everybody anticipated a big Finnish push in the third period, but it never came. Instead, Denmark kept their cool, and Nielsen got his second of the night with an empty netter with 47 seconds remaining.
Suddenly, Group D is very exciting.
On Monday, Denmark plays against Team USA while Finland takes on Germany. Before that game, Petteri Nummelin will receive an official plaque for his historic achievement. He will also want three points.