Things aren’t quite as rotten in the state of Denmark anymore. The Danes got their first points in three tries with a 4-1 victory over Italy on Tuesday.
Jesper Jensen, Jannik Hansen, Emil Kristiansen, and Kim Staal scored for the Danes, who took more penalties than they should have, but finally got their offence going with two quick second-period goals. Mikkel Boedker chipped in a pair of assists.
Diego Kostner replied for Italy.
"It was a really tough game today," said Danish defenceman Philip Larsen. "They played really disciplined and stayed back. They let us kind of handle the puck most of the time and they were pretty quick on the counterattack. We had some good patience, and at the end, it gave us three points."
Simon Nielsen made his second consecutive start for Denmark and got his first win with 12 saves. Daniel Bellissimo, appearing in goal for the third straight game, had 27 stops for Italy.
"This was a tough loss," said Italy's Giulio Scandella. "It was a game that we felt that we had to win, an important game. They had zero points, but now they are in front of us. But it's not finished yet, and we'll keep on going, hoping to get some more points."
The Italians had a little bit of bad luck at the outset, hitting the inside of the goal post seconds after the opening faceoff.
Jesper Jensen got the party started for Denmark at 2:51, banging in a rebound from the top of the crease after Frederik Storm’s attempted backhanded wraparound fell short.
"The first goal was really important for us, because we were a little nervous today," said Danish coach Janne Karlsson.
Italy didn’t give up. Kostner and Scandella showed stellar chemistry on the tying goal. First, Scandella circled the net, drawing Nielsen out of position and creating a great chance for Kostner right in front, which he couldn’t convert. But then, Scandella regained the puck on the boards and dished it neatly to Kostner, who went to the backhand and fooled Nielsen along the ice at 12:15.
Hansen did his best to get Denmark back on top, busting in on goal but crashing into Bellissimo. At the other end, the Italians kept Denmark hemmed in during a late-period power play with Nicklas Jensen off for interference, but couldn’t capitalize.
Shots on goal were 12-4 Denmark in the first, but it was still a 1-1 game.
A minute and a half into the second period, Nielsen had to be sharp to block Scandella’s five-hole attempt on a partial breakaway.
Danish fans had to be getting concerned. When would the men with “Dansk Metal” on their helmets start playing a harder, more effective game? Volat, the horned bison mascot, was delivering more quality action in the stands than Denmark was on the ice, despite having five NHLers.
It was a Vancouver Canuck who delivered the go-ahead marker and changed the tone. Hansen used his game-breaking speed to put Denmark up 2-1 while shorthanded with 4:10 left in the middle frame. Gobbling up a Trevor Johnson turnover at the Danish blue line, he raced down on a 2-on-1 and zinged it home glove side from the left faceoff circle.
Kristensen made it 3-1 just 29 seconds later, beating Bellissimo high to the stick side with Julian Jakobsen providing a good screen. Now the Danish faithful could relax again.
"With those bang-bang second and third goals, we just got down mentally," said Italy coach Tom Pokel. "It was a tough one to swallow today."
Nielsen showed his alertness in the first minute of the third period, stretching out to make a great save off Vincent Rocco's quick release from the right faceoff circle.
With about five minutes left, Jakobsen and Boedker couldn't quite finish off a 2-on-1 rush. But it didn't matter. Staal added some insurance with an empty-netter at 17:34, and the Danes had win number one.
"We would have liked a much different start to the tournament," said Hansen. "Quite a few of us hadn't played a game in quite a while getting in from overseas. It takes a while to get your game legs and the systems going. In the game against Norway, we played really well, but we were stupid and took too many penalties. It's hard to win when you're shorthanded 16 to 18 minutes in a game."
Denmark has now won four of its five career World Championship meetings with Italy, dating back to 2006. The lone exception came in 2012, when Scandella scored in overtime to lift the Italians to a 4-3 win.
Tough games await both sides next. The Italians face the Czechs on Wednesday, while the Danes will battle Canada on Thursday.
"Canada is always Canada," said Larsen. "Hopefully we can catch them on a bad day and we have a really good day."