HALIFAX – The disappointing 2008 World Championship continued for the Slovaks today as they were beaten 3-2 by Finland. The result assures the Finns top spot in Group C. Slovakia will finish third or fourth based on the results of tonight’s Germany-Norway game.
Niko Kapanen, Tuomo Ruutu, and Teemu Selanne scored for the Finns while Robert Petrovicky and Miroslav Kovacik replied for Slovakia.
"I think we had a good first period, but we should have played more active hockey like that the rest of the way," Ruutu said.
Kapanen opened the scoring at 2:05, taking a harmless shot from a bad angle along the left boards as he was falling. It was a shot that Budaj should have stopped with ease, but it slipped between his pads and over the line.
The Finns upped the count to 2-0 on the power play, although the extra man had little to do with this beautiful play off the rush. In the end, Kapanen flew down the left wind and made a great pass to Ruutu. Ruutu accepted the puck, slid across the crease as goalie Peter Budaj committed to the shot, and slid it in the open side.
But the Slovaks showed some pluck and struck back just 14 seconds later when Robert Petrovicky made a gorgeous deke in tight and slid the puck between Niklas Backstrom’s pads to make it a 2-1 game.
Despite being badly outplayed, Slovakia managed to tie the game at 18:21 on a delayed penalty. Peter Fabus took the original shot on a 2-on-1, but goalie Niklas Backstrom kicked the puck onto Kovacik’s stick as he made the save. Kovacik smacked home the rebound to cap an entertaining first period.
The Finns pulled ahead again at 5:17 of the second on another man advantage. Teemu Selanne blasted a hard shot from the top of the faceoff circle that beat Budaj cleanly to the stick side. Moments later Riku Hahl hit the post but the puck ricocheted behind the goalie and out the other side.
The Slovaks had a great chance to tie the game later in the period. Coming out of his own zone, Olli Jokinen threw a blind pass to the centre of the ice only to have it picked off by Marcel Hossa. He walked in alone on Backstrom, but the goalie made the save.
Slovakia had a great opportunity again to tie the game in the third period after Hannes Hyvonen drove Tomas Starosta into the boards, giving the Slovaks a five-minute advantage. The team could muster few decent shots. Coach Julius Supler pulled Budaj for the extra attacker only with 31 seconds left to play, but the Finns weathered this brief storm and skated off with the victory.
"It's good to get the three points. Our game is going to get better, especially when Saku [Koivu] is in the lineup," Ruutu said.
"We knew they were desperate because this was an important game for them," Finland's Ville Peltonen noted, "but we were ready. We still have ups and downs in a game, but we're improving and becoming more menatlly tough."