Harri Pesonen’s goal late in the first period broke the deadlock, but it took second-period tallies from Toni Rajala and Hannes Bjorninen to make the game safe. Joel Armia added a fourth on the power play early in the final stanza before Jere Sallinen wrapped it up late on.
But if the atmosphere was bubbly, the home team was a little flat at times in a first period that saw Norway threaten to gatecrash the party.
"I think we were a bit nervous at the start," admitted goalie Jussi Olkinuora. "They came out strong in the first period but we kept at it and eventually we were able to take care of business."
Norway's Mats Rosseli Olsen added: "In the first period it was OK, but then they showed that they are a better team than us. We made too many easy mistakes. We know we can't do that if we want to take points against a team like Finland. They deserved the game in the end."
The Finns made a slow start, with the Polar Bears first to mount a goal threat. Gradually the balance began to change, but committed Norwegian defence helped to protect Henrik Haukeland’s net. When he was beaten by a wicked effort from Sakari Manninen, the rising puck clipped the outside of the post and thudded into a startled Teemu Hartikainen beyond the goal line.
At the other end, Norway posed danger of its own: Christian Kaasastul had Jussi Olkinoura scrambling to meet a centre point shot that came through traffic, then the home goalie was a relieved man after Sami Vatanen’s deflection sent a Max Krogdahl shot onto the crossbar rather than into the net. Krogdahl, 23, is part of a new generation of Norwegian defencemen; today he was agonisingly close to opening his World Championship goal account in memorable style.
"We came out with a lot of energy and I think we surprised them a little bit," said Norway's captain Mathis Olimb. "We played it very straightforward, tried to take the puck to the net, but when they got that goal they kinda took control of the game.
"They're extremely skilled so we lost our game a little bit in the second period."
Norway deserved to get to the intermission with the scores at least level. Instead, with 91 seconds left in the frame, Finland made the breakthrough. The Tampere crowd’s triumphant roar was tinged with relief as Armia, one of just two NHLers on tonight’s team, held the puck between the hash marks just long enough for Andreas Klavestad to commit himself. The Norwegian defender slid in for an attempted poke check, opening up the tightest of lanes for Armia to slip a feed to Pesonen at the back door. The finish was emphatic, the mood kicked up a notch.
Finland’s game, though, is built on grinding down the opposition. A long spell of home possession saw Norway bend, but another save to deny Hartikainen on the doorstep ensured the visitor did not break. Not quite. The next play brought a reward as a tired Norwegian defence struggled to clear its lines. Krogdahl was the man caught out, Rajala jumped on the loose puck and angled a wrist shot inside the near post to make it 2-0.
Rajala made his pro debut in Tampere with Ilves. Not surprisingly, he relished the moment.
"It was pretty awesome, for sure. 5-0 in front of the home crowd and also I got to score a goal here in my hometown," he said. "My linemates were working hard there, got the turnover and I fooled the goalie a little bit, faking the pass, I shot it and it went in. Of course it was a big goal to make it 2-0 and we got the 3-0 there in the second period as well."
That second goal featured another hugely popular part of the team. From Bratislava to Beijing, Marko Anttila has secured his status as a cult hero. Today in Tampere, he was ready for another contribution. Ville Pokka forced a turnover in centre ice and released Anttila down the right. The gangling veteran may not be the most elegant player in the game, but there’s no doubting his effectiveness. A perfect feed invited Bjorninen to make it 3-0 from close range.
The second period closed with a brief fight involving Kaasastul and Lammikko, the latter dismissive of the major penalty he took. "That wasn't a fight, it was a battle," he said. "Must be different rules [than in the NHL]."
If individual discipline slipped a little there, Finnish defensive discipline is legendary and there was little chance of Jukka Jalonen’s team letting this advantage evaporate. Instead, a power play early in the third enabled Armia to add a fourth goal.
That wasn’t the end of the action: Olkinuora had to look sharp to preserve his shut-out with a sprawling save from Mathias Trettenes, then Magnus Brekke traded blows with Saku Maenalanen. The Norwegian was deemed the instigator but this time the penalty kill held firm.
The final word went to Jere Sallinen. The 31-year-old, currently playing in Switzerland with Biel-Bienne, flashed home a one-timer to complete the scoring with just over two minutes left, sealing a solid start for Finland.