HALIFAX – Slovakia defeated Norway 5-1 in the first game for both teams tonight at the Halifax Metro Centre, but it was hardly a dominating performance by the 6th ranked team over the 14th ranked Norway.
Robert Petrovicky had a goal and two assists for the winners. "The last game we played was seven or eight days ago," Petrovicky said, "so it was good to play again. We know we don't have the best team, but we have a bunch of guys who are willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to win."
Indeed, the Norwegians were equal to the Slovaks in many areas except goaltending and touch around the goal. Jan Lasak stopped most everything sent his way while Andre Lysenstoen had several shaky moments in Norway's goal.
Norway skated well and showed remarkable poise, but their poor puckhandling in scoring positions was their downfall. One indicator of the evenness of play was that both teams were whistled for five minor penalties.
The Slovaks opened the scoring with a short-handed goal at 9:43 of the first. Tibor Melicharek took the puck down the left wing and his weak shot was deflected by Marius Holtet. The puck wobbled past the blocker of Lysenstoen to give the Slovakians a fortunate 1-0 lead.
Although the teams played evenly for the rest of the period, Slovakia opened a two-goal lead just 15 seconds into the second when Juraj Kolnik came down the right wing on a two-on-one. He held onto the puck, moved in on Lysenstoen who remained back in his net, and beat him easily over the glove.
They upped the lead to 3-0 on the power play midway through the period when Lubomir Visnovsky's point shot was expertly deflected in front by Robert Petrovicky.
Just a minute later, though, a Slovakian clearing attempt was intercepted by Mathis Olimb and he ripped a wrist shot over the glove of Lasak from the slot to bring the score to 3-1. "I had a bit of room in front and time to pick a corner. I was lucky it went in," Olimb said humbly.
The Norwegians had a late power play in the period with Radovan Somik in the box, but although they moved the puck around well they couldn't pull the trigger on a second goal.
Any hopes of a Norway rally were snuffed out just seven seconds into the third period when Marcel Hossa scored on a wrist shot from far out that Lysenstoen should have grabbed.
Slovakia is the finest "swing" nation in World Championship play. When it has a full roster of its best players, it can beat any country in the world. When it doesn't--as is the case here in Canada--it drops several levels. The Norwegians, on the other hand, played with more skill and confidence than they did when they first returned to the top pool in 2006.
"Before the tournament we talked about our team and we agreed we have to take baby steps," Petrovicky said. "Tonight, we made the first step, and now we have to be ready for step two. Every step is going to be more difficult."
Slovakia's next game in Group C will be Monday night against the Germans while the early game that day will feature Norway versus Finland.