Delivering a resilient effort at Nokia Arena, Germany downed Hungary 7-2 on Sunday. It’s the third consecutive German preliminary round win. Nico Sturm stepped up with a pair of second-period goals to put the game out of reach, and John Peterka had a goal and three assists.
With nine points, the Germans have passed Denmark, which has eight points, for fourth place in Group A. The quarter-finals are in sight. Fans of coach Harald Kreis’s squad have reason for optimism after their boys performed well but got nada in their three opening losses to Sweden, Finland, and the United States.
"We’re super excited about [a potential playoff place]," said Germany's Frederik Tiffels. "That’s something we wanted to do coming into this tournament. Now we’re very close and in two days we want to finish it off."
"Obviously, we're happy that we won these points," added captain Moritz Muller. "Big points for us. Not an easy game to play. I felt like Hungary was good in the neutral zone, trapped up a lot, and waited for our mistakes. We had lots of time and sometimes we were maybe a little too cute. But overall, we are happy with the win."
The Germans outshot Hungary 33-16 as starter Mathias Niederberger notched his third win in Tampere.
Germany’s last group-stage game is Tuesday against France. Meanwhile, the Danes face long odds as they wrap up their slate versus the Swedes and Finns.
Sunday's result also sets up a dramatic Austria-Hungary showdown on Monday to avoid relegation. Austria’s lone point dates back to their 2-1 overtime loss to the French on Day One, while the Hungarians have two points from their 3-2 overtime win over Les Bleus.
"That was a tough one for us," said Hungarian assistant captain Tama Pozsgai. "We feel it was a little bit closer than how the results look. A little disappointed, but we have to forget it as soon as we can and focus on tomorrow's game, which is important for us."
Versus the likes of Sweden and Finland, coach Kevin Constantine's Hungarians came out strong but ran out of steam. Here, the Germans ensured their early intensity didn't lag behind that of the ever-chanting and drumming Magyar fans to the right of goalie Dominik Horvath's net.
Germany's Wojciech Stachowiak opened the scoring at 7:58 with his second goal of these Worlds. On a Hungarian neutral zone turnover, Justin Schutz got a clean break down right wing. Horvath blockered away his high release, but the puck went into the left faceoff circle and Stachowiak fired it home short side.
First-period shots favoured Germany 15-4. Yet near the six-minute mark of the second period, Hungary got a mega-opportunity when defenceman Maksymilian Szuber was ejected with a match penalty for a reverse hit gone wrong on Karol Csanyi. This became an extended 5-on-3 when top Detroit Red Wings D-man Moritz Seider took an interference minor.
At 7:42, Istvan Sofron thought he'd equalized on a laser off a faceoff, but instead the goal was waved off, and a holding-the-stick penalty to Istvan Bartalis made it a 4-on-3. Diligent German checking killed off the rest of the man advantage.
"To me, that was a penalty," Moritz Muller said. "Sturm is one of our best PK players and faceoff men, and his stick was tucked under the arm. That's maybe half a second he couldn't be there and put the stick in the shooting lane. It's a penalty."
Seider levelled up with the 2-0 marker at 15:04. He pinched in from the centre point, working a give-and-go with Tiffels, and had a wide-open net as Horvath sprawled in vain.
At 15:22, Sturm gave Germany a commanding 3-0 lead. The San Jose Sharks forward busted to the net on the rush and tucked home the rebound from Samuel Soramies' shot on the backhand. Sturm then finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play on the doorstep at 17:55 on the power play.
"It's really nice," Moritz Muller said of Sturm. "I mean, even without the goals, he's a big asset for our team as a guy and the way he contributes to the game. It's good that he rewards himself with offensive goals through hard and honest work."
In the third period, Peterka made it 5-0 with a bad-angle snipe at 2:39.
The Hungarians finally generated some offence, but too late. Istvan Terbocs snuck one over the goal line to spoil Niederberger's shutout bid at 6:11 and Nandor Fejes made it 5-2 two minutes later.
Dominik Kahun scored off the rush with under 10 minutes left, and Jonas Muller rounded out the scoring with 1:22 left.
"I think maybe at the beginning [of the tournament] we were a little bit unlucky," Tiffels said. "Now we just kept playing the same way. We still have something to improve on. We were making some mental mistakes, some easy mistakes. Against good teams that can cost us so we need to cut those out."
Hungary has never beaten Germany at the IIHF World Championship. Germany’s all-time head-to-head record sits at seven wins and one tie. That tie was 2-2 on 19 February 1937 at the Worlds in London, England.