Pekka Rinne shuts out Belarus in front of home crowd as Finland now is back in playoff contention.
Strong defence and goaltending along with an early goal by Petri Kontiola were the determining factors in their 2-0 win over Belarus at Minsk Arena.
Finland resumed its winning ways with a second straight win, this time over the host nation Belarus giving them six points in Group A. After a slow start to the tournament, Finland is back in playoff round contention in Group B.
"The defence for us was very good and our goalie was great tonight," said Kontiola. "That's why we won. We had a few problems on the offence, but we had a good defence and a good goalie, so we won it."
Belarus was back on the ice after two days off. Their last game was Monday and a 4-3 win over Switzerland.
As he did in Finland’s last game, Kontiola opened scoring. Kontiola’s goal at 16:30 was scores as he rushed the puck through the neutral zone, through two skaters as he gained the zone and using the defenceman in front as a screen.
There was action to start the game and throughout the first period. Andrei Kostitsyn was strong for Belarus with three of the team’s eight shots in the period.
The goal would stand through the second period for the Finns.
Perhaps the best chance in the middle frame for Belarus was when Mikhail Grabovski sent a pass across to Sergei Kostitsyn, who sent a shot that Pekka Rinne initially saved but the puck went through the pads and lay on the doorstep in the crease. Jyri Marttinen was able to swat the puck away before Andrei Stepanov could get there.
Finland largely clamped down on quality chances, keeping the Belarusian attack to the outside. The same could be said about Belarus and their commitment to keeping the Finns honest. While Belarus was limited to three shots in the second period, Finland was only able to manage four.
"There was good defence from both teams," said Kontiola. "We had to shoot from outside and we couldn't get into the middle. Neither team really had any good scoring chances so that's why there weren't many shots on goal."
Belarus was given a man advantage at 10:06 of the third when Leo Komarov was called off for interference after barreling into netminder Kevin Lalande. Grabovski managed to get off a shot, but otherwise not much power play offence was generated. Given how important special teams are in such close games, Belarus missed an opportunity to try and level the game.
Despite this, Belarus continued to press several flurries on offence yielded a few shots and anxious moments for Finland but nothing got past Rinne, who stopped all 15 shots he faced.
Then with 4:14 remaining, Alexander Kitarov sent a backpass to Andrei Kostitsyn for a shot that Rinne used his blocker to stop.
A penalty at 17:54 of the third on Dmitri Korobov meant that Belarus would spend the rest of the game shorthanded. Belarus pulled Lalande and worked the puck deep but Jori Lehtera took the puck the other way into the offensive zone and found Kontiola for an empty netter, his second of the contest. It as a power play, empty net goal. Olli Jokinen got the other assist.
The game ended 2-0 as Finland and Belarus are now both two wins and two losses in Group B of this tournament.