STOCKHOLM – Denmark dashed Latvia’s slim hopes for playoff qualification today with a 2-0 win at the Globe Arena. With the win, Norway now qualifies for the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Morten Green and Morten Madsen’s second period goals helped Denmark to its first win of the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Denmark now finally moves out of eighth place with a chance to avoid relegation.
Denmark played the game that they, and everyone who’s watched this team since 2003, are capable of playing.
In the first period Latvia would have very many good chances with 18 shots on goal, the most they’ve had in a single period in the tournament.
Frederik Andersen, making his fifth start of the tournament, was up to the task.
Denmark’s Jesper Jensen crashed the net and collided with goaltender Edgars Masalskis, knocking him down. Jensen was called for checking to the head and neck and a ten-minute misconduct.
Despite it’s many shots in the period, Latvia was unable to get anything going on the power play.
"We’ve struggled with scoring the last few games, that’s basically it." Said Janis Sprukts. "When you struggle with scoring, you lose confidence in some kinds of plays, and you just get down."
Latvia’s best chance of the game and their opportunity to take the lead came early in the second period when Gints Meija was staring at a virtual wide open net and Andersen seemingly beat, but shot the puck high. It rang off the crossbar and out of play.
Off the next faceoff after the Meija miss, Denmark raced down into the Latvian end to score and take the lead. Morten Green’s third marker of the World Championships put the Danes ahead.
Green caused a turnover in the neutral zone, and took control of the puck and passed it to Nicholas Hardt. Hardt passed back to Green who skated between the faceoff circles and set a shot stick side at 4:48.
"Twenty seconds before, the Latvian guy had an open net and he fired it up in the stands," said Green. "So that was a little bit of good luck for us. But then I got a good pass from my winger and came down through the middle. I thought, ‘I’ve got to shoot it high.’ It went in top shelf. Nice goal."
For the second time in the game, Masalskis was knocked over by a Danish skater. This time Morten Madsen was called for interference. Masalskis was down for several minutes before finally getting up and back in the game.
He finished the period but was replaced by Maris Jucers in the third.
Madsen made up for the two penalties he took in the period to extend the lead to 2-0 at 15:23. A Lars Eller pass behind the Latvian net slapped off the blade of Krisjanis Redlihs’ stick and Madsen deftly brought it forehand to tap it in.
Latvia put on additional pressure late in the game. A penalty by Green late in the game allowed Latvia to pull its goaltender for a six on four advantage but Andersen came up big. In the game he stopped all 35 shots faced for the shutout.
"The key was hard work and patience throughout 60 minutes," said Eller. "I think we knew we were going to outwork them, and then we were going to get our chances and put one or two in. Frederik Andersen was huge for us in goal too."
It’s a big relief for us, because we’ve played really well in long stretches in this tournament, but haven’t gotten the result we wanted. Today we got it.
The score would hold up and now Denmark increased the odds of their staying in the top group. Denmark has four point and Italy two.
A loss by Italy tonight would ensure Denmark avoids relegation.
"Obviously we can’t get into the quarter-finals," said Green of Denmark's World Championship experience. "It’s too late for that. But I think we’ve still got some World Ranking points to play for, and the Olympic qualification to keep in mind, so we’re going to do our best."