Finns wear down Danes

Three PP goals for Finland, seeking first medal since '08

30.04.2011
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Ondrej Nepela Arena Bratislava  Slovakia

Jarkko Immonen (26) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images

BRATISLAVA – “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” The Finns evidently took this old saying to heart, beating Denmark 5-1 on Saturday to avoid losing to the red-and-white team in their first game two years in a row.

Finland – Denmark 5-1 (0-0, 2-0, 3-1) Game Report Photos

Denmark upset Finland 4-1 to open the 2010 IIHF World Championship. It was the first time in history the Danes had defeated the Finns. That wouldn’t be allowed to happen again.

Juhamatti Aaltonen tallied a goal and an assist for Finland, and Jarkko Immonen, Antti Pihlström, Mikael Granlund, and Tuomo Ruutu also scored.

Nichlas Hardt had the lone Danish goal.

"I'm not sure how many scoring chances the Danes had, but not many," said Ruutu.

The Finns typically ice one of the hardest-working, most cohesive teams in international hockey, and this year’s group looks like it’ll be no exception. They came on as aggressively as the Metallica tunes defenceman Janne Niskala likes to spin before games.

Finland outshot Denmark by a whopping 44-9 count. Finnish goalie Petri Vehanen, who plays for the KHL’s Ak Bars Kazan, earned his fourth career World Championship win.

"We tried to play tight in the neutral zone, but Finland is a great team and they got three power goals, too," said Danish forward Mads Bodker. "After that, it was tough to come back.

The Danes struggled to turn on the red lamp. No wonder, as they’re missing key NHLers like Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen, Montreal’s Lars Eller, and Frans Nielsen of the New York Islanders.

At 8:52 of the first period, the play was stopped for video review after a Finnish slapshot ricocheted off both posts behind Danish goalie Frederik Andersen with a delayed penalty coming up to Denmark. Julian Jakobsen had hammered Leo Komarov from behind into the boards, and he was assessed a boarding minor.

Even though the Finns didn’t capitalize, they physically dominated the Danes and kept them hemmed in their own zone in the opening 20 minutes, registering a 15-3 shots on goal edge.

At 3:57 of the second, the Finns finally drew first blood when Jarkko Immonen’s power play slapper from the high slot clanged in off Andersen’s right post.

At 16:26, a saucy solo dash by Aaltonen gave Finland a 2-0 lead with another man advantage. Aaltonen took a pass from captain Mikko Koivu on the right side, cut over the blueline, and got to the slot, where he slipped a backhand through Andersen.

In the third period, Finland stretched its lead to 3-0 when Pihlström raced to the net and directed Mika Pyörala's backhand feed past Andersen at 2:39.

Denmark managed to spoil Vehanen's shutout bid just over five minutes later when Nichlas Hardt tipped a nice Jakobsen feed into a wide-open net on the power play.

Yet Finland restored its three-goal edge with another 5-on-4 goal by Mikael Granlund at 7:31, a cheeky tip that was the first career World Championship marker for the 19-year-old HIFK Helsinki forward. He became the first Finnish player born in the 1990's ever to score at the Worlds.

Less than two minutes later, Tuomo Ruutu rushed to the net and swept an Aaltonen feed underneath Andersen to make it 5-1 Finland.

"We played carefully in the beginning, but I think once we got going, we played well," said Pihlström.

In an unusual gambit by Finnish head coach Jukka Jalonen, Finland played with four pairs of defencemen. Current NHLers Sami Lepistö and Anssi Salmela served as the top duo.

The boisterous crowd at Orange Arena mostly supported the Finns, although Czech fans awaiting their late game versus Latvia chimed in occasionally with chants of “Denmark!”

Finland is gunning for its first World Championship medal since 2008’s bronze. With the victory, Finland’s all-time Worlds record against Denmark, dating back to 2004, improved to five wins and one loss.

LUCAS AYKROYD

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