COLOGNE – Jussi Jokinen scored twice, his first goals of the tournament, and Pekka Rinne made 27 saves as Finland beat Slovakia 5-2 and secured its spot in the quarterfinal.
"It was another must-win game for us, we've had four of those now. This is good for our self-confidence. We've got ourselves to a position where we play for the group top spot," Jokinen said.
Finland needed a point from the game to clinch its playoff berth, and took three. The Slovaks still have their fate in their own hands despite the loss. By beating Germany on Tuesday, they will still advance to the quarterfinals.
"We took too many penalties," said Miroslav Satan, who played his first game of the tournament.
In the first period, Finland had the upper hand in the first half, and the Slovaks worked their way back into the game in the latter half. Penalties also played a role in that even if neither team managed to score on their power plays.
"We got our speed back in the second period, and got the goals that we needed," said Petri Kontiola.
Midway through the game, Sami Kapanen played the puck to the point, and while Peter Budaj made a save on Topi Jaakola’s wrist shot, his rebound went to the side of the net. Petri Kontiola grabbed it, went around the net and lifted the puck upstairs with a backhander at 9:20 into the second period.
In the next shift, Petteri Nummelin took a pass to the slot from Riku Hahl, and beat Budaj with another wrist shot to make it 2-0, just 53 seconds after the first goal.
The Finns put the game to bed a couple of minutes later. Nummelin sent a pass from blueline to blueline, sending Jussi Jokinen on a breakaway. The 27-year-old forward, who scored 30 goals in the NHL this season, beat Budaj on the stickside for his first goal of the tournament.
"Nummelin is a world class passer, and he made a great play there. Of course it's great to score goals, it's good for my confidence, but the win was the most important thing tonight," Jokinen said.
Slovakia made a goalie change for the third period, switching Budaj to Rastislav Stana.
"Finland got three quick goals and after that it was hard to come back," said Ivan Majesky.
Slovakia began their chase at 1:58 into the first period. Tomas Starosta took a slapshot from the point, Rinne made the first save but left a rebound, and Tomas Tatar took care of it by sending a backhander over Rinne’s leg, and into the net.
With 3:26 remaining in the game, Jokinen scored his second of the night, and tournament, sending another rebound to the back of the net with a backhander.
A minute and 27 seconds later, Vladimir Mihalik beat Rinne with a slapshot from the blueline, and Slovakia made a last-ditch effort, pulling Stana, but the Finnish defence together with Pekka Rinne rode the storm out and Juhamatti Aaltonen sealed the final score, 5-2, with an empty netter.
Both teams will be back in action tomorrow. Slovakia will go head to head about a playoff spot with Germany.
"The key for us is to get rest for tomorrow," Majesky said.
Finland and Russia play for Group E top spot. However, Finland needs the win in regulation time to finish first.
"We won't be tired, we'll try to finish first in the group," Jokinen said.