ZURICH-KLOTEN – Down 3-1, Finland skated to a 4-3 win on Niklas Hagman’s game-winner with 8:01 remaining in the third.
The line of Hagman, Antti Miettinen and Niko Kapanen, accounting for three of Finland’s four goals. Niko Kapanen had two goals and an assist.
By finishing first in Group D, Finland will play Slovakia on Friday at 20:15. The Czech Republic will play Canada tomorrow at 20:15.
"They were our toughest opponents so far," said Tommi Santala. "But we came back and won, which was huge for us."
This evening’s game was, in so many ways, the best of the tournament in Kloten so far. Both sides would attack and counterattack, as the transition game ensured that fans in attendance were treated to a thrilling contest.
A breakdown by the Czechs in the neutral zone led to the first scoring opportunity as Niko Kapanen moved in on goal against goaltender Jakub Stepanek. Kapanen scored his fourth goal of the World Championships at 9:32.
The Czechs wasted little time in answering back as Tomas Rolinek converted a pass from Sami Kapanen had the puck dribble off his stick in the neutral zone as he fell down. Jan Mark picked the puck up and fed Rolinek who was moving in stride on net. Rolinek’s backhander made it 1-1.
The Czechs would leave the ice in the first period with a 2-1 lead, thanks to Miroslav Blatak. Jaromir Jagr put a perfect pass onto the stick of Blatak who one-timed a shot to the open side at 13:30 for his second goal of the tournament.
The Czech would get a two-goal cushion when Ales Kotalik let go of a blast that went far right, stickside and past Pekka Rinne.
At that point it seemed the Czechs were in clear command. But Finland would claw back as Ville Koistinen let go a hard wrist shot at the point that went straight through Stepanek’s pads to cut the lead at 3:52 into the second.
Finnish forward Leo Komarov, added to the lineup today, had a great chance to tie the score but could not connect off a Tuomas Pihlman pass.
The turning point in the game for Finland was when they enjoyed a 5-on-3 power play with 1:32 remaining in the period. They wasted no time in moving the puck and pouncing on the chance to score.
Hannes Hyvönen faked a slapshot and sent a pass down low to Miettinen who whipped this pass through Marek Zidlicky and on the stick of Niko Kapanen who roofed it home to tie the score on his second goal of the game.
The goal was Kapanen’s fifth of the tournament, eclipsing his previous high of four at the 2000 World Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Finland continued to pour on the pressure and almost added another with ten second left in the middle frame. The breakthrough would come when Hagman scored off a pass from Miettinen for the decider.
A late penalty by Janne Niinimaa gave the Czechs one last opportunity but the Finns would prevail.
"It was an intense game and fun to play," said Anssi Salmela. "Even when we were down 3-1 we believed this was our game to win. We feel we're in good shape going into the next round."