The first time these teams met, at the 1949 World Championship, Canada won 47-0, the most lop-sided score ever. ALL eleven players on Canada recorded at least a hat trick in that game, and Jim Russell had eight goals.
There was none of that today. Denmark played superb defence inside ther own end, getting sticks in the way, taking time away from the Canadians, blocking shots and clogging lanes, and getting great goaltending from Sebastian Dahm when needed.
"It means a lot," said Nikolaj Ehlers. "Not many people believed that we can do that. But we did. The belief that we have in our group is out of this world, and that makes things like this possible. We know what we can do. You know, in those three games in the middle of the tournament, we weren't able to capitalize on those shots and on our opportunities. And we have in the last few games, so we've got to keep shooting. That's the way you score goals."
This was a game fraught with importance for both teams. For Denmark, they were trying to earn a place in the quarter-finals at the expense of Slovakia. Both teams had nine points and were tied for fourth, and they will play tomorrow on the final day to decide once and for all. But now, Slovakia will need to win in regulation.
For Canada, a win would have still given them a chance to finish first in the group and set up a likely date with the U.S. in the cross-over quarter-finals. So Canada now can't finish in first, and Denmark has greatly improved their chances of a playoff game on Thursday.
"We know we can't celly too hard because we have such a big game tomorrow," Morten Poulsen added. "But now, we have to celebrate a few hours after this historic win. I think we paid the price. We had to take the challenge, and and I think everyone really did that. We needed everyone to accept that we were gonna play a lot in the defensive zone and eat some shots and really do all the hard parts of the game. We knew it was going to be tough in our own end. But we did extremely well. I'm so proud. The first period was as close to the perfect as we can play. Everything was just clicking in the first period so that helped us a lot today. We know we have a really important game tomorrow as well."
"I think we were sloppy early," acknowledged Canada's Ryan Graves. "We kind of gave them their chances. Our puck play wasn’t disciplined enough and they took advantage of their opportunities. We had some good stuff, but we just struggled to capitalize on our scoring chances, and I think they were opportunistic in what they scored on. But we didn't do a good enough job managing the puck."
Denmark opened the scoring at 9:11 on a fast break and head’s-up play by Matthias Asperup. He came down the right side on a two-on-one but rather than pass or shoot he waited for the trailer and fed Markus Lauridsen who moved right in on goal before beating Chris Dreidger to the stick side.
They nearly went up 2-0 moments later when Felix Scheel whipped a backhand off the post. Canada had a power play a little later, but instead of tying the game they surrendered a short-handed goal. Thomas Chabot dropped the puck to Matt Barzal at the Canada blue line, but he was stripped of the puck by Frederik Storm.
Storm dished off to captain Peter Regin, and he beat Dreidger through the five-hole. It was only the second ever short-handed goal Canada had allowed to Denmark (2006) and the first time ever that the Danes were up two goals against them. In the end, Canada held a 14-6 egde in shots, but it was all the same a period the team would like to forget.
Canada may have had the puck more and had the better of play, but they weren’t the better team, and it showed on the scoreboard. That changed in the second period, though. Canada dominated the first 12 minutes and were clearly in charge. They got an early goal off an unusual faceoff play. While the two centremen fought for the puck after it was dropped, Max Comtois snuck in and whipped it towards the goal, fooling Dahm and making it a 2-1 game at 2:33.
Canada continued with pressure and nearly tied it, but Travis Sanheim glanced a shot off the post that stayed out. Mid-period Comtois put his name on the scoresheet again, for all the wrong reasons. He hit Oliver Larsen hard along the boards, and the referees went to video review where they determined it was a hit to the head, necessitating a five-minute major and match misconduct.
The Danes couldn’t take advantage, though, as Canada’s PK was flawless, but the Canadian momentum was gone. Another penalty to end the period pushed Canada’s comeback efforts to the final 20 minutes.
But the Danes increased their lead to 3-1 at 12:11 on the power play when Mathias Bau pushed a puck in from the top of the crease. Four minutes later, Canada fought back thanks to a bullet shot by Ryan Graves from the top of the circle, and not long after Sanheim ripped another shot of the post that stayed out.
The frantic finish was testament to the Danes' resilience as they clogged the area around Dahm and prevented a tying goal. At the end, they mobbed their goalie in celebration for a much-deserved win, but now they need a good sleep and ready themselves for one more big game tomorrow. And Canada must collect their thoughts and get into playoff mode as well.
"We have to give them credit, they played a good game," Nicolas Roy said. "They played good defensively. I think we still have to find a way to score goals, battle in front of the net. Handle adversity: We just have to regroup, we have a game tomorrow, look at the video, look at what we can do better, flush it and be ready. The tournament is not over, we just want to be better."