STOCKHOLM – Poor discipline early on and stretches of listless play might have scuttled the Czechs’ hopes against an elite foe. But they rebounded from a penalty-riddled first period, and Ales Hemsky scored two goals, including the shootout winner, in a 4-3 win over Norway on Monday.
David Krejci and Michal Frolik added singles in regulation for the Czechs, whose record improved to two wins and a loss. Mathis Olimb and Jonas Holøs had a goal and an assist apiece, and Lars Erik Spets also tallied for Norway, which lost for the third straight time but gained its first point.
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"We have to play them tight because that's our game and they have a good team," said Holøs. "We tried to keep everything outside and give the bad angles for shots and clear out the rebounds."
In the first shootout of the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Czech goalie Jakub Kovar made three straight saves to outduel Norway’s Lars Haugen. Final shots on goal were even at 31 apiece.
Norway fell short in its bid for a second straight World Championship win over the Czechs. The Norwegians earned a 3-2 upset on the strength of a 44-save performance by Pål Grotnes when these nations clashed in Germany 2010. (The Czechs, who subsequently also lost to Switzerland, went on a Cinderella run that year to capture their first gold medal since 2005.)
The Czechs took four straight minor penalties in the first period, and even though the Norwegian offense had struggled coming into this game with just three goals, Kovar could save his teammates from their sins for only so long.
At 11:16, Mathis Olimb opened the scoring for Norway on a 5-on-3 power play, firing a Holøs rebound into the gaping net as the Czech goalie lunged across in vain.
"The power play has been good with two goals yesterday and one today," said Holøs. "It is important to have the power play going and it can provide a team with energy."
The Czechs tied it up with 3:19 left in the period on one of their characteristic counterattacks. Nedved got Norway’s Henrik Solberg to turn over the puck at the blue line and raced down on an odd-man break with Hemsky, who went straight to the net and converted Nedved’s cross-ice pass.
"I took a couple of penalties [beforehand], and I can't do that early in the game," admitted Hemsky. "It's my fault and I'm happy I could help the team by scoring."
There were no more penalties on either side after the opening stanza.
Norway jumped back into the lead at 1:39 of the second period. Anders Bastiansen broke into the Czech zone, hesitated and drew Czech defenders toward him on the side boards, and then fed a perfect centering pass to Lars Erik Spets, who lifted the puck past Kovar.
The Czechs were struggling to get their game in gear. With four minutes left in the middle frame, Mads Hansen went to the net and nearly poked in a third Norwegian goal, but Kovar finally noticed the loose disc sitting behind him and sat down on it.
Krejci tied it up at 2-2 with 2:56 left in the middle frame, hustling into the Norwegian zone, using defenceman Alexander Bonsaksen as a decoy, and zinging a wrister from the left faceoff dot over Haugen’s glove. Shirtless Norwegian fans wearing paper Skoda helmets jumped up and down appreciatively.
In the third period, Michal Frolik and Milan Michalek pressed for the go-ahead goal with wrap-around attempts. Frolik got it a few moments later at 7:56, as he took a neat Tomas Plekanec feed from behind the goal line and whipped the puck through the pads of Norwegian goalie Lars Haugen.
The Norwegians refused to cave in. Jonas Holøs stepped into a one-timer from the top of the right faceoff circle at 10:51 to make it 3-3.
"It was a big goal to score in the third because it brought it to overtime and we got one point," said Holøs.
Holøs got a near-break with just over three minutes remaining, but couldn’t get loose enough to lift a backhander past Kovar’s blocker.
Overtime settled nothing, so it was off to the shootout.
The Czechs won the right to shoot first, and it unfolded as follows (according to the IIHF game-winning shots procedure, in which three different shooters from each team take alternate shots until a decisive goal is scored – and if the game is still tied after three shots by each team, the GWS continues with a tie-break shootout by one player of each team, with the shooting order reversed):
Round 1: CZE, Hemsky – goal, forehand deke. NOR, Skrøder – Kovar save.
Round 2: CZE, Nedved – Haugen save. NOR, Thoresen – Kovar save.
Round 3: CZE, Krejci – Haugen save. NOR, Ask – Kovar save.
"When they tied it at 3-3 we were concerned," Hemsky said. "But in the end we won, and that's what is important."
Prior to the 2010 victory, Norway lost six times to Czechoslovakia from 1937 to 1992, and only earned points in a pair of 2-2 ties (1994, 1996) in seven meetings with the Czech Republic through 2009.