STOCKHOLM- Denmark took a big step today and avoided relegation by defeating Belarus 3-2. Morten Green’s shorthanded second-period goal helped Denmark to its second tournament win.
"We thought this was an important game," said Green. "We wanted to win for the coach; it's his last two games with us before he ends his career. It's big for our country to get into the top 12 as well, which we'll get now."
Denmark has been a World Championship fixture since 2003. In that time they have been impressive in staying up and competing so effectively at a high level.
Denmark has struggled here in Stockholm. Without some of its best players still in or coming off the NHL playoffs, the Danish side has relied on a hard working roster that’s stayed relatively competitive but unable to match their elite opponents in Group S.
Still, they were able to come out with the effort they needed against Belarus.
At 6:31, Philip Larsen scored a power play goal on a slap shot from the point. The puck whistled though traffic upfront and to the back of the net.
Kim Staal and Nichlas Hardt earned assists on the play.
For Staal, this tournament has been something of a revival. The 35-year-old Staal leads Denmark in scoring and is once again showing the crafty offensive skills that made him an early fixture and go-to player for Denmark when they began play in the top division of the World Championships.
Nicklas Jensen scored his second goal in as many games to make it 2-0. Mikkel Bødker took possession of a rebound and shoveled a backhand pass to Jensen who was streaking in towards the net for a tap in.
Larsen and Jensen have been noteworthy in their efforts as they represent the future of Danish hockey on the international stage. They are developing in their NHL careers, along with Oliver and Markus Lauridsen, and building blocks for future Danish national team success.
Belarus was without defenceman Ilya Kaznadei who was suspended by the IIHF Disciplinary Committee. Head coach Andrei Skabelka no doubt missed the 19 minutes a game that Kaznadei has averaged thus far.
Green made it 3-0 when his team put together a sensational effort in working to get the puck deep. Green’s slap shot added to the Belarus’ woes in the game and, for that matter, the tournament.
After that goal Belarus made a goaltending change with Vitali Belinski getting in the game. Belinski previously played three games and registered his team’s only win. The move catalyzed Belarus and they shook off their early game malaise.
Belarus finally got on the scoreboard when Konstantin Koltsov took a pass from Oleg Goroshko and let go of a shot that Simon Nielsen could not stop at 12:10.
Roman Graborenko further cut into Denmark’s lead with his goal near the end of the second. The goal at 16:36 ensured some drama going into the third period of a close game.
"We were happy with how we played in the first 35 minutes," said Green. "In the last five minutes of the second, they controlled the game. But, on the other hand, we can't expect to control a game for 60 minutes."
Belarus really put pressure on Denmark in the period and gained the momentum that was missing earlier. But it was too late for Belarus to come all the way back.
"We tired to relax and just get the job done in the third after the terrible end to the second. We showed today was our day," said Staal.
Despite having only three points that came thanks to a 4-3 win over Slovenia, Belarus cannot be relegated since they are the host country of the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
However, the implication for Slovenia is that they are now officially relegated with the possibility of finishing no higher that 14th.
Belarus forward Alexei Yefimenko was hurt in the first period and did not return to the game.