BRATISLAVA – Tomas Plekanec scored the game winner off a third period penalty shot as the Czechs beat Russia 3-2, in a game that featured a lot of emotions. Including frustration and irritation.
Czech Republic - Russia 2-1 (2-0, 0-1, 1-1) Game Sheet Photos
Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek also scored for the Czechs, Ondrej Pavelec made 24 saves.
"It was a tough game, to the last second," said Czech forward Martin Havlat.
"It was a strange game today. I don’t even really know how I feel right now," said Jaromir Jagr.
"We won the game but we lost [Milan Michalek and Karel Rachunek], two very good players. It’s kind of mixed feelings about whatever happened in the second half of the game. It wasn’t a pretty game. There were a lot of penalties and power plays," he added.
Not only had Russia and the Czech Republic split the wins in the previous 13 World Championship games – six each, one tie – they had also alternated between wins and losses almost perfectly. Only before last year’s World Championship final, which the Czech Republic won 2-1 – had Russia managed to beat the Czechs twice in a row at the Worlds.
With 5:59 remaining in the first period, as the referee had raised his arm for a delayed Russian penalty, Martin Skoula took a slap shot from the blueline. Russian goaltender Konstantin Barulin made a pad save but Jakub Voracek grabbed the rebound and tapped it in with a backhander.
Just 1:51 later, in Jaromir Jagr’s next shift, Tomas Plekanec carried the puck into the Russian zone, made a drop pass to Jagr, who cut to the middle and took a wrist shot, beating Barulin to give the Czechs a 2-0 lead in the game at 15:52.
Halfway through the game, Russia’s Yegveni Artyukhin – 196 centimetres, 112 kilograms – went on a hitting spree, checking three Czech players in the same shift, only two of whom had the puck.
"He’s just a huge guy. It’s tough to stop him when he wants to hit somebody, because he’s like a huge monster coming after you. One [of the hits] was pretty bad because our guy didn’t have the puck," said Jagr.
Artyukhin handed a two-minute interference penalty for his open-ice body check on Milan Michalek, who stayed on the ice for a good while. He did return to his next shift, but left the game later.
"There's nothing to say about [Artyukhin]. He had three boardings and head shots in that one shift. [The talk] is all about player safety, and it wasn't safe at all. He hurt a couple of our players, so maybe somebody should look at it," said Havlat.
"He shouldn't be playing in the next game, that's for sure," he added.
Russia had trouble getting into the game, as the Czech Republic controlled the puck, and therefore the flow of the game, thanks to five Russian penalties in the period. But when Tomas Plekanec got a slashing penalty having tapped Barulin on the pads after the whistle, Russia got their chance on power play. Atyushov sent a wrister from the blue line, Pavelec made a save, but the rebounded landed in front of Alexei Tereshenko – who has recovered from the knee injury he suffered earlier in the tournament – and he slammed it in to make it a one-goal game at 11:50.
At the end of the period, Artuykhin hit Karel Rachunek at the top of the faceoff circles, sending the Czech defenceman flying, and getting a cut in his head. Artuykhin didn’t get a penalty for the situation.
Just 3:27 into the third period, Ilya Nikulin threw himself on the ice to stop Tomas Plekanec on a breakaway, and as his ice left his hand, the Czechs got a penalty shot. Tomas Plekanec went to backhand, then back to forehand and pushed the puck into the net, under Barulin's arm, and the Czechs had a two-goal lead again.
But Russia's Z line took their team back within a goal. Dmitri Kalinin drove to the net, sent the puck across the crease and Denis Zaripov tapped it in for 3-2, at 15:04.
The Czechs spent the last two minutes of the game in their own zone, but managed to keep the Russians off the board, and clinched their group win with a 3-2 win.
"We still have one more game before the quarterfinal. We'll take it step by step, and now the next step is Germany," said Havlat.