In their sixth try, Denmark won their first ever game over the Czech Republic at the IIHF World Championship. Mikkel Boedker scored the 4-3 shootout winner.
When Denmark fell behind 3-1 early in the third period, things weren’t looking too bright for the team. But a power play goal from Jesper Jensen with four minutes left and a tying goal from Patrick Bjorkstrand, his first ever World Championship goal, in the last minute of regulation sent the game into overtime and, eventually, penalty shots.
"We stayed in the game. We stayed the course," said shootout hero Mikkel Boedker. "We kept battling and we got two late goals. In the 4-on-4, you’ve just got to keep battling. In a shootout anything can happen. We got the first goal, so [our goaltender] Simon [Nielsen] felt a little better about himself back there and he stopped them all. It was good."
The Danish goalie saved all three penalty shots he faced, and sealed the win as he stopped an attempt from Jaromir Jagr, who had a goal and an assist earlier in the game.
"I had an idea that Jagr would shoot," Nielsen said. "I’ve seen him do a lot of shots on breakaways and shootouts. I guess it’s just guessing."
With the win, Denmark moves to five points to claim sixth place in the group.
"Now we’ve got two points more, so we’ll obviously look up and not down anymore," Nielsen stated. "We’ve just got to take it one game at a time here. Next game is huge for us. If we get a win, we’ll be right back in it."
The Czechs are now fourth in the group with seven points, the same point total as Norway and France.
"This is the second time this has happened already. We led 3-1 against Sweden and we led 3-1 today. And we lost again. I don’t know what to say," said Ondrej Nemec. "We’ve got two games left and we have to win both games if we want to go to the quarter-finals."
Jakub Klepis and Jakub Kindl scored the other Czech goals, while Stefan Lassen had Denmark’s first tally.
The Czechs, desperate for a win after a lukewarm beginning of the tournament, got the start they were looking for. Five minutes in and on the first powerplay of the night, Jakub Klepis stepped in from the point and opened up the scoring with an accurate slap shot that found the inside of Simon Nielsen’s right post.
The Czechs continued to pour on the offence and were rewarded with another power play when Stefan Lassen was sent to the box for hooking at 6:35. The Czech five-man unit needed only 20 seconds before getting their second of the night as Jaromir Jagr put his stick on a hard pass from Vladimir Sobotka that hit Nielsen’s shoulder before going into the net.
Three minutes later, Lassen got one back as he picked up a Mads Christensen pass in the slot and fired a distinct wrist shot past Alexander Salak in the Czech net to make it 2-1.
In the second, the Czechs successfully killed another penalty early on before getting their third opportunity of the night when Jannik Hansen was called for interfering Alexander Salak. The Czechs, however, would not score on their third straight power play.
Twelve minutes in, the Czechs put strong pressure on the Danish net, with Petr Zamorsky hitting the post counting as the best chance. After that, the teams traded chances with the man advantage, both failing to score.
At the buzzer, Morten Green was called for handling the puck, giving the Czechs their fifth opportunity of the night with the man advantage to start the third. The Danes survived, but the Czechs sustained their pressure even after Denmark had returned to full strength. And five minutes into the third, it was 3-1 after Jakub Kindl’s shot from the point sailed past a screened Nielsen in the Danish net.
The Danes went on a quest to close the gap, but faced a strong defence as the Czechs pulled back their men. As the Czechs continued to thwart the Danish attack, time started running out.
But Denmark did get a last chance on the power play as Martin Sevc was sent to the box for tripping with six minutes remaining. And with time on the power play about to run out, Kim Staal fed the puck nicely to Jesper Jensen who closed the gap to 3-2. The Czechs contested that the goal would be called off for a player in the crease, but to no avail.
With less than one minute remaining, the Danes completed their comeback and made it a 3-3 game when Patrick Bjorkstrand, standing on the side of the crease, whipped the puck into the net after Jannik Hansen had dug the puck out from the boards to Morten Madsen whose shot in front was partially blocked, before falling to Bjorkstrand.
"It’s really tough. I think we played really, really good," said Nemec. "We had a lot of great scoring chances. But I have to say that we played really badly defensively today. And I don’t know what happened with our shootout again. If you lead 3-1 in a game like this, you have to win it."
In the five-minute overtime, neither team was able to score, paving the way for penalty shots.
And in the penalty shootout, it was all about Nielsen and Boedker.
"I stuck with the move. That was the plan all along," Boedker said of his shootout goal. "Score or miss, you gotta go with what you’re comfortable with. He bit on it. There was a big hole to start with, and I was debating whether to shoot or not. But I faked it and he kept sliding, and that was obviously good."
Simon Nielsen stopped all three Czech shooters – Jakub Klepis, Jiri Hudler and Jagr.
Before today’s game, the Czech’s held a 5-0 record versus the Danes, outscoring them 20-3 in the process. At last year’s tournament, the Czechs won 2-1 after a penalty shootout.
"Unbelievable feeling. You couldn’t write that any better," Nielsen explained. "Last year I had a chance to stop one puck and beat them. I didn’t. So it’s good to get back and get these two points this year."