Finns pull away from Hungary
by Lucas AYKROYD|19 MAY 2023
Mikko Lehtonen (#4) opened the scoring for Finland in a 7-1 romp over Hungary at the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Tampere.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin
The defending champion Finns exploded for five third-period goals to hammer Hungary 7-1 on Friday for their third regulation-time win of the 2023 Worlds.

Coach Jukka Jalonen's team came in seeking a leave-no-doubt win, the kind Sweden enjoyed in a 7-1 shellacking of the Magyars. They matched that scoreline. The hosts' puck movement and positioning wasn't as crisp and assured as they'd prefer through two periods, but the last 20 minutes showed significant promise. Finland also totalled two power play goals.

"I think overall it was pretty good," said captain Marko Anttila. "Of course, in the first two periods we couldn't score that many goals and we let them have a couple too many chances. But in the third I think it was a very good performance from us. I'm happy that we scored some goals and we get to have a better feeling from those goals."

With three assists, Mikko Rantanen took over the tournament assists lead with seven at these Worlds and was named his team's Player of the Game. The 26-year-old superstar remains goalless despite notching 55 goals with the Colorado Avalanche this year.

"I think he's one of the top five players in the world, and of course, he's a big player for us," said Anttilla. "It was a very, very good game from him."

Finland's next chance to refine its game is Saturday against Austria. 

The Hungarians, who play Germany on Sunday, have just two points in Group A from its 3-2 overtime upset of France.

"It never feels too good to get scored on that many times, but I thought we could take away some positives," said Hungary's Kristof Papp. "We never had such a close game through the first two against Finland. I think we can use those two periods to build off it and fix our mistakes in the third."
Jalonen continues to tweak his lineup. SHL scoring leader Antti Suomela replaced Jere Sallinen on the second line and Tappara forward Waltteri Merela slotted into the fourth line in place of Ahti Oksanen.

In net, Finland’s Jussi Olkinuora, the 2022 Worlds MVP, got his second tournament start after making 10 stops in the 4-3 win over Germany. Emil Larmi, whose three starts include the 4-1 loss to the U.S. and 2-1 shootout loss to Sweden, got the night off, while Tappara star and 2023 CHL MVP Christian Heljanko sat on the bench.

Finland outshot Hungary 44-13.

"It's getting better and better, as it should," said Atte Ohtamaa. "In these kinds of tournaments, you have to improve every game, and I think we are on a good track there."

As against Sweden, the Hungarians came out energetically and even outshot the champs early on. Finland looked less than organized on its first power play.

Mikko Lehtonen drew first blood at 12:52. The top-scoring blueliner pinched in to take a drop pass from Rantanen and roofed a wrister from the right faceoff dot.

Just before the first period ended, Kasperi Kapanen centered the puck from behind the goal line to Juho Lammikko and Hungarian netminder Bence Balizs robbed him with the right pad.

On a second-period power play, Kaapo Kakko converted a cross-crease feed from Joel Armia at 3:09 for a 2-0 lead, reenergizing the Finnish fans at Nokia Arena.

Hungary's Balazs Sebok, who plays professionally for Ilves Tampere, cut the deficit to 2-1 at 6:46. Olkinuora stopped assistant captain Tamas Pozsgai's wrister from the left faceoff circle with his glove, but he bobbled the puck and it landed behind him in the crease, enabling Sebok to poke it in.

The Finns struggled to mount dangerous chances thereafter, while Olkinuora barely got his right pad on Balok's spinaround wrister from the slot area. But the third period brought better things.

Just 51 seconds into the third period, Atte Ohtamaa cruised in to zap a shot over Balizs' glove. At 3:24, Rantanen fed Hartikainen for a hair-trigger release on the power play that bulged the twine. Less than three minutes later, Kapanen put the game firmly out of reach with a goal off the rush.

"I’m really happy that so many guys scored today," said Hartikainen. "A lot of them got their first goals in this tournament and that’s going to be huge for us."

The mood was considerably more ebullient among blue-and-white fans as they sang the 1995 IIHF World Championship classic "Den Glider In" (associated with Finland's 4-1 gold-medal win over host Sweden).

Merela had a big smile on his face too after making it 6-1 with 5:18 left, and Armia rounded out the scoring in the final minute.

The Hungarians had just eight shots in the last two periods, but at least weren't blanked shots-wise for 40 minutes like against Tre Kronor.

Finland beat Hungary 3-0 in their only previous World Championship encounter in 2016. Goalie Juuse Saros posted a 13-save shutout as the Finns outshot Hungary 51-13. That game remained 0-0 until Ohtamaa scored at 16:22 of the second period. 
Hungary vs Finland - 2023 IIHF WM