Denmark’s challenge tonight was no small task: Stop the Finnish offence that’s been a juggernaut at this tournament. Finland has averaged almost eight goals a game.
The Danes tested Finland’s resolve and gave them their toughest match to date.
"We knew they had a lot of offence so it took a team effort to block shots and taking away passing lanes, making sure Freddie saw the puck," Jannik Hansen said. "The two goals they got there was nothing you could do about those but Freddie found a way to make some big stops to keep us in the game."
Denmark was bolstered with the additions of Hansen and Mikkel Boedker to the lineup. Both were active throughout and Boedker picked up two assists, including on the game winner.
The first period ended in a scoreless tie. Denmark was able to keep Finland off the scoreboard in a period for the first time in the tournament. Finland had scored in all nine periods of their previous three games.
After that, Saku Maenalanen was called for boarding on Jesper Jensen Aabo. When the play stopped, Nicklas Jensen went after Maenalanen. There was also a lot of active chatter between benches as Oliver Lauridsen was shouting at the Finnish bench.
"We know they are a good team and we have a lot of respect for them but not too much," Hardt noted. "We tried to play our game all the time, defence first and tight in the middle."
Denmark would draw first blood on the power play. With 7:32 remaining in the second period, Frans Nielsen scored. Nielsen skated near the far boards to the right of the goal then walking it in for a shot that beat Ville Husso.
The capacity crowd of 10,800 at the Jyske Bank Boxen erupted as Finland was now in unfamiliar territory, playing from behind in this tournament.
Denmark regained the lead with 2:50 remaining in the second period as Oliver Bjorkstrand raced in on a partial break and sent a hard, quick shot on goal that made its way through. Lauridsen made the key pass out of his zone to an open area of the ice that gave Bjorkstrand some room to use his speed to get the puck and break towards the net.
"I was excited to get the puck there," Bjorkstrand said. "I was hoping for a clear breakaway but the D was close. I took a look to see if Boedker was with me or not. I didn’t feel like I could pass it, so I took a shot and it went in."
The goal was Bjorkstrand’s first of the tournament in front of fans here in his hometown of Herning.
Finland increased their offensive intensity leading to some anxious moments as time ticked off the clock in the second. Janne Pesonen tipped the puck on goal but Frederik Andersen held firm.
Denmark would not let up. Drawing confidence from their ability to stay with Finland, they continued their pace in the third period.
Early in the third, a flip pass out of the Danish zone to neutral ice was timed just right so that when the puck hit the ice, Nicklas Jensen was there to get it and go in on a breakaway. Huuso made a big stop, preventing Denmark from taking a two-goal lead.
Denmark would have another chance to extend their lead. Bjorkstrand would have another glorious chance slipped a pass that sent him on a break but stopped by a pad save.
Finland would go on the power play with Stefan Lassen in the box. They moved the puck well but ultimately got few shots on goal and when they did Andersen was there with a big stop.
Mikael Granlund demonstrated leadership befitting the C on his jersey when he scored at 15:50 to tie the game again. Granlund took a Koivisto pass and connected.
A crucial moment in the game occurred when Teravainen was called for delay of game when he lifted the puck over the glass into the crowd. Denmark would have their best shot and regaining the lead and they did when Nichlas Hardt, planted in front of the net took a pass from Boedker to slip it in with 1:59 remaining.
"Nichlas scoring like that at the end of the game was an amazing lift for us," Hansen said. "That’s what good players do."
As the final buzzer rang, Denmark finished off what has been their best hockey of the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Two big wins against Germany and now Finland enhance their playoff possibilities.
"It is up to us now. We know that the next three games are important and games we need to win," Bjorkstrand said of the prospect. "We have a big game against Norway in a few days and that is a must win for us. We can control our own destiny and not have to rely on another team so we have to focus on the remaining games now."