Two-goal forward Marco Zanetti brushed aside any concerns about Italy's performance, speaking buoyantly about Wednesday's game.
"I'm really proud of my team and my line," he said. "I scored two goals, the line had three, so we're very happy. Now we just hope it continues and we can win promotion on Friday."
In a tournament full of fast goals, once again we saw the puck in the net early on. This time it took Lithuania just 45 second to stun Italy. Martynas Grinius’ shot was stopped by Damian Clara, but the rebound went straight to Paulius Gintautas to make it 1-0.
Then came plenty of work for Elvinas Karla, starting his first competitive international game for his country. Italy went straight onto the front foot as it looked to get back into the game. Midway through the first period, Zanetti tied the scores. As the Lithuanian defence was pulled this way and that, he was left open on the slot and Luca Frigo found him with a pass from behind the net.
In the second period, there was another early goal. This time, it went to Italy. Zanetti was on target again, redirecting Enrico Miglioranzi’s shot with the puck in flight. Egidijus Binkulis was close to an instant response for Lithuania, but he took too long when well-placed in front of Clara’s net and the chance got away from him.
Then came two video reviews that led to two further Italian goals. Phil Pietroniro’s shot bounced back out of the net. Initially the officials thought it hit the piping but a look at the footage confirmed that Italy’s power play had its first goal of the game. Then Dante Hannoun’s effort survived a review amid claims that Karla was impeded by an Italian stick as he tried to make the save.
That put Italy up 4-1 and seemingly in control of the game. Time to close it down and conserve energy for the final showdown?
Well, no. A delayed penalty helped Lithuania claw one back when Aivaras Bendzius stuff the puck home at the second attempt after an Emilijus Krakauskas shot came back off the post. Then more penalty trouble late in the middle frame gave Lithuania a five-on-three power play. As shots rained in on Clara, Martynas Grinius got a good look at the open side of the net to make it a one-goal game.
"Lithuania is a good team," Zanetti added. "Their special team are so good. But I know we have more goals in us than the other teams here."
It was something of a relief for Italy to see a Eimantis Noreika go to the box, and that lapse proved costly. Not only did it halt Lithuania’s momentum, it also enabled Pietroniro to pot his second power play goal of the game and restore a two-goal lead before the intermission.
Italy regained its three-goal cushion in the third when Daniel Mantenuto exchanged passes with Zanetti and beat Karla through the fivehole. But that wasn’t the end of Lithuania, with Bendzius hitting back immediately to keep the game alive until the end.
"This was our best game of the championship so far," said captain Nerijus Aliskauskas. "We want to keep improving. At the start, it wasn't very good so we had to do better. We have a young team so we can improve every game."
Today’s result leaves both teams with work to do on Friday. Lithuania must win against Korea in its final game to have a chance of staying in the division. Italy, meanwhile, can guarantee an immediate return to the top division if it beats Great Britain in regulation.