BRATISLAVA – In one of the most entertaining bronze medal games of all time, the Czech Republic claimed third place with a 7-4 win over Russia this afternoon at Orange Arena. Roman Cervenka led the way with three goals and an assist in a game that featured all-out offence and wildly entertaining hockey. The eleven total goals was the most ever at World Championship and Olympic play.
Czech Republic-Russia 7-4 (2-3, 3-1, 2-0) Game Sheet Photos
Twice Russia had the lead but couldn't hold it during a second period in which the Czechs scored three times. Ilya Kovalchuk had two goals for the losers. Petr Prucha added two goals and an assist for the Czechs. Noticeably absent from the Russians' effort was Alexander Ovechkin, who made several giveaways and ended the tournament with zero points in five games.
"It’s a medal," boasted Jakub Voracek. "After what we did in the first two rounds, we were expecting gold, like everybody else. But it feels a lot better than after the semi-finals, and I’m very happy to get this bronze."
"We made way too many mistakes," offered Russia's Fyodor Tyutin, "more mistakes than they did. We feel awful. It’s not where we wanted to be."
It was a game that looked more like an all-star game than medal game. Goals aplenty, little defence, no trap coaching, goalies hung out to dry. That’s old-time hockey! Both teams were in synch and were happy to offer the noisy and happy fans this pre-gold-medal treat of a game.
""This was a great group of guys," said Jaromir Jagr. "Last year, we showed that we can win even if we don't have our best players. This year, the NHL players came, too, and the team attitude was still there. Too bad we played against a Swedish team that just didn't make any mistakes."
In what might well have been the most entertaining period of bronze medal hockey in decades, the teams came out guns a-blazin’ from the drop of the puck, clearly impressed by the sheen of bronze after being eliminated from gold-medal contention. They combined for five goals in the first 20 minutes, Russia getting three, all exciting plays off the rush. A packed Orange Arena with half the fans shouting, “Rossiya!” and the other, “Cesky!” only added to the atmosphere.
The first goal came at 3:33 on a strange play, to say the least. Cervenka was the puck carrier, and with him on the play was Tomas Plekanec. The only defenceman back was Vitali Atyushov, but Fyodor Tyutin was hustling back to help out. Cervenka made the pass, but Atyushov deftly got his stick on the puck. At the same moment, though, Tyutin dove back trying to intercept the same pass. His body carried the puck into the goal past a surprised Konstantin Barulin.
The middle part of the period featured three great goals in 57 seconds. The Russians tied the game on a long shot by Ilya Kovalchuk who fired the puck between the legs of defenceman Petr Caslava and just under the blocker of Ondrej Pavelec. The goal came after Jaromir Jagr created several outstanding chances for the Czechs before heading off on a line change, exhausted.
Just 15 seconds later, the Russians went ahead with an identical shot. This time it was Dmitri Kulikov, from the right, who fired it to the far side, just under Pavelec’s blocker.
Not to be outdone, though, the Czechs scored the best goal of the five on a perfect, three-way passing play. Petr Prucha passed the puck to Jan Marek at his blueline and headed up ice. Marek fed it to Tomas Rolinek who moved it quickly back to Prucha, now in the slot. His high shot found the back of the net.
The Russians went ahead again at 18:53 when Kovalchuk snagged a loose puck in the slot and roofed a shot over a sprawling Pavelec.
If the first period was exciting, the second offered almost as many goals plus a bonus package of craziness and a bit of rough stuff. The Czechs tied the game at 2:11 off a giveaway at the Russian blueline, Prucha ripping a high shot past Barulin.
This was the first of three goals in a row for the Czechs that changed the game once and for all. The next goal came when Atyushov was caught flat-footed at the Czech blueline on a turnover in front of the goal. He raced back to get to the puck before Cervenka, diving and trying to swat the puck back to his goalie. It was a poor choice, and Cervenka walked in alone, the puck bouncing in after Barulin tried an unsuccessful pokecheck.
Finally, Plekanec wound up for a slapshot at the top of the circle, and while everyone watched him, Cervenka had hit stick on the ice off to the side and re-directed the hard pass.
Vladimir Tarasenko brought the Russians to within one on a rebound that went in out and so quickly it needed video review to confirm the goal. But the period also featured the first penalties of the game, two of which for roughing after Maxim Afinogenov tried to start a fight with Patrik Elias.
If that weren’t enough, the game was delayed halfway through after Rachunek rode Yevgeni Artyukhin into the boards at the penalty bench. The glass exploded upon impact and had to be replaced, much to the delight of the fans who were seeing one great game.
The Czechs got a bit of insurance at 6:30 of the third period when Jan Marek snapped a hard shot from the slot off an odd-man rush that had been nicely broken up by Dmitri Kulikov.
Plekanec finished the scoring with an empty-net goal.
"I'm really happy," said Pavelec. "There was a lot of pressure because we won last year, and a lot of people doubted if I could play at this level. But we got a medal, and it's a great feeling."
"It wasn’t an easy game," said Marek Zidlicky of the Czech Republic. "You know, we just lost one game in the tournament. It was a tough thing for us, but we are so happy that we got the bronze. It was just one bad game in the semi-final, but that’s hockey. We’re so happy right now."