MANNHEIM – Norway shocked the Czech Republic 3-2 in the afternoon game at SAP Arena to throw Group C into disarray. The win gives it and the Czechs a win and a loss in the standings and leaves all teams vulnerable for possible demotion to the Relegation Round.
It was the first time in 18 games and 73 years that the Norwegians had beaten the Czechs at the World Championship or Olympics. In fact, it marked the first time they had scored as many as three goals against them in World Championship play. The teams tied twice previously, 2-2 in 1996 and by the same score two years earlier. The aggregate score coming into the game was 91-19 for the Czechs. The only time Norway scored more than two goals was in a 10-4 loss at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo.
The Norwegians got goals from three different players and Patrick Thoresen had two assists for the winners. Jaromir Jagr had both Czech goals. The Czechs held a wide majority of the play and outshot the winners by a 3-1 margin, 45-15 overall.
"I think I played pretty well," goalie Pal Grotnes said. "There were a couple of times when I was lucky that their guys missed their shots, or one of our defencemen got a stick in the way. But I felt pretty confident and saw most of the shots. The rebounds went my way, too."
It was the strangest first period. The Czechs controlled play and seemed to taunt the Norwegians with their superior skills, size, strength, team play. And yet it was Norway that had three great chances in the middle part of the period, cashing in on the last of them.
Patrick Thoresen, a left-hand shot, tore down the right wing. He came to a sudden stop and fired a perfect pass to Mats Zuccarello Aasen in the high slot, and he ripped a wrist shot over the shoulder of goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who was clearly surprised by the velocity and accuracy of the drive.
Most of the rest of the period was played back in the Norwegian end, but the damage had been done. Goalie Pal Grotnes was solid for Norway, and Thoresen had one other great chance in the final minute. In the end, teams headed to the dressing room with the surprise scoreline of CZE-NOR 0:1.
Not much happened at the start of the second, which suited Norway just fine, but a series of penalties both ways finally gave the Czechs a 5-on-3. Jaromir Jagr cashed in with a hard shot from the point to tie the game.
The Czechs toyed with their opponent s again for the next several shifts, but then the improbable continued just three minutes later when Anders Fredriksen tipped in a lazy wrist shot from Lars Lokken Ostli that beat Pavelec at 10:13.
Everything was going according to plan for Norway, and finally at 18:01 Czech frustration set in when captain Tomas Rolinek and Norwegian Martin Laumann Ylven tangled behind Grotnes and got four minutes each for roughing.
The Norwegians went up by two goals at 4:23 of the third on a sensational play by anyone’s standards. They cleared the puck from their own end, and Mathis Olimb, near centre ice, made a sensational, sweeping backhand pass to Anders Bastiansen while falling to the ice along the boards. Bastiansen outwaited Pavelec and drilled a low shot to the far corner.
Jagr got his second of the game on a nice feed from Karel Rachunek, redirecting the puck past a surprised Grotnes at 13:09.
"That's hockey," Pavelec said philosophically. "Everybody can beat everybody. But it's not over. This was our second game. I think we're going to have some meetings tomorrow, and we'll be ready for Thursday."
Both teams close out their Preliminary Round play on Thursday. The Czechs meet Sweden in the late game while France and Norway tangle earlier in the day.
"We have to think about the next game against France," Thoresen noted. "Even if we beat the Czechs today, we can lose against any team the next day. So we have to enjoy this victory today, and start preparing for France."