STOCKHOLM – Old rivals renewed their IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship playoff battle as the Czech Republic defeated the home team Sweden 4-3. Milan Michalek’s goal in the waning minute of the game proves the winner.
With the win, the Czechs move into the semifinals in Helsinki to go up against Slovakia on Saturday.
"I think it was a great forecheck," said Michalek. "I got the puck, and it was 2-on-1, and I knew the goalie was going to go down. The defenceman took away the pass, so I obviously shot glove side and it went in. I’m happy."
Since 2008, these teams have either met in the quarter-finals or semi-finals of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Over the last two tournaments the path to a medal meant these two elite hockey nations would have to go through the other.
In 2008 Sweden defeated Czech Republic 3-2 in overtime in Quebec City before bowing out in the semi-finals to Canada.
Again in 2009 they met in the quarterfinals in Bern where Sweden defeated the Czechs 3-1 before losing the semis also to Canada.
Things would change, however, in 2010 they met again in the quarterfinals. The Czechs defeated Sweden 3-2 to go on and defeat Russia for the gold medal.
Last year Sweden defeated the Czechs 5-2 in the semi-finals before losing to Finland in the gold medal game.
As he had done in Sweden’s final Preliminary Round game against Latvia, Loui Eriksson scored the first goal of the game. Johan Franzén worked along the wall behind the net passing the puck to Henrik Zetterberg.
Zetterberg thread a pass between David Krejci to Eriksson who patiently skated around Jakub Nakladal for a high percentage shot that beat Viktor Fasth.
Shortly after the goal Daniel Alfredsson almost scored another as momentum very early on favoured the Swedes.
The Czech Republic settled things down and were able to answer back with 8:10 remaining in the period when Petr Nedved scored. Ondrej Nemec was able to fight off a check to find Nakladal for a wrister that was redirected by Nedved.
Then with 3:04 remaining the first period Milan Michalek found Jiri Novotny in front to make it 2-1.
Over the first seven minutes of the second period both teams traded some of their best chances of the game.
Sweden’s best chance came when Jakub Kovar stopped Erik Karlsson down low. Two minutes later Kovar would also stonewall Viktor Stålberg from between the faceoff circles.
The Czechs significant missed opportunity occurred when Tomas Plekanec blocked a Victor Hedman shot that sent him through the neutral zone on a two on one. He passed to Frolik who hit the side of the net.
The score remained 2-1 until Martin Erat gave his team a two-goal lead with a power play goal at 10:27.
A tripping call on Jonathan Ericsson was, to say the least, wildly unpopular with fans in attendance. But the Czechs converted with a Krejci backhand pass from the side of the net to Erat in front.
For Ericsson, it was only his second game played at these World Championships.
With 45 seconds remaining in the second period the Globe Arena spectators erupted when Zetterberg scored to cut the deficit to 3-2. He worked the puck one handed behind the net, bringing it out in front of the goal and banging in a rebound off Kovar.
45 seconds into the third Ericsson equaled the score at three when he threw a shot on net that made its way through. At 19:15, it was a new game.
The period was the most entertaining of the three as the pace was strong and both teams played up and down hockey.
With 29 seconds left in the game, Milan Michalek created a turnover from Niklas Kronwall who was attempting to move out of the zone. Michalek took the puck and drove to the net putting it high over Fasth at 19:31.
"We thought we had the game in hand," said Swedish forward Gabriel Landeskog. "We were starting to play well, getting pucks to the net, just like we wanted to play. It’s tough to let that one go in with 29 seconds left."
With the win, the Czechs now move to Helsinki to take on Slovakia in the late game on Saturday night at Hartwall Arena.
"We speak the same language, and we have lots of friends on their team," said Michalek of the matchup. " It’s a semi-final, so it’s going to be a great game. They beat Team Canada and that’s one of the best teams here. Their goalie is playing well. It’ll be a tough game."