STOCKHOLM – Jeff Skinner broke a 1-1 tie with a lovely goal early in the third period that stood up as the winner to give Canada a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic.
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Incredibly, Skinner played the least of any player in the game (8:48) with the exception of Luke Schenn, who received a match penalty in the second period, and young defenceman T.J. Brodie.
It was the first game between the countries in World Championship play since 2010 and puts Canada back on top of the Stockholm group with 16 points, two more than Switzerland.
The Czechs still have eight points, sit in fifth place, and are dangerously close to missing the quarter-finals.
"It was a tough game for us," said goalie Ondrej Pavelec, "but they were dangerous, and we took too many penalties. Again, a tough loss, but we’ll see what Switzerland and Norway do tonight. We have one more game left and we have to keep playing."
Canada (5-0-1-0) finishes its round robin tomorrow against Slovenia while the Czechs (2-1-0-3) have a day off before facing Norway in a must-win game on Tuesday.
Canada opened the scoring with a power-play goal from Wayne Simmonds. He parked himself in front of Pavelec and deftly deflected a shot from Eric Staal. It was his first goal and point of his senior World Championship career with Team Canada, having played previously only on the 2008 gold medallists at the U20.
"Our line had been getting chances in games but have been snakebitten the whole tournament, so it was great to get one," Simmonds noted. "Hopefully this will continue on through to the medal round."
Canada seemed to be motoring along nicely in the early going, but a penalty to Steven Stamkos stalled the drive. Just as he came out of the box Martin Hanzal took a point shot that goalie Mike Smith saved, but he kicked the rebound right to Petr Koukal, who eluded Brodie to snap the puck in at 17:03.
The Czechs dominated the end of the period and nearly went ahead, but Smith made a great reaction save with his glove on a Tomas Hertl shot on a clear breakaway. The Czechs, who have struggled all tournament, skated off the ice having played perhaps their best period.
Despite the offensive skill on both sides, the second period was a scoreless one with plenty of opportunity on the power play. Schenn, playing so well on Canada’s blue line, took a major and match penalty for a hit along the boards, but Canada killed it off in part thanks to a Czech minor during the extended man advantage. Later on, the Czechs took four penalties of their own, but Canada couldn’t connect.
Skinner put Canada ahead at 6:55 of the final period on an end-to-end rush. He cut to the outside, down the left wing, and as he wheeled around the net, Pavelec stood up, thinking Skinner was going to pass.
Nope. Skinner put the puck on goal on the wraparound for a 2-1 Canada lead. Goalie Smith drew the only assist on the play.
"I didn’t want to do much," Skinner said. "I wanted to take it around the net and squeak it in there. I think I may have got a little bounce off something."
Smith later preserved the lead with his best save of the game, a glove grab off a hard and accurate shot from the top of the circle by Jakub Nakladal. The Czechs didn't help their cause by taking two late penalties, hindering their chances of tying the game.