International Ice Hockey Federation

Czechs shoot down Finns

Finland blows 3-0 lead, Hanzl shootout hero

Published 08.05.2017 23:22 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Czechs shoot down Finns
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 8: Czech Republic's Jan Kovar #43 celebrates with teammate Jakub Jerabek #5 after scoring to tie the game at 3-3 against Finland during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The Czech Republic rallied from a 3-0 first-period deficit to defeat Finland 4-3 in a shootout on Monday. Robin Hanzl scored the winner.

Hanzal, a 28-year-old HC Litvinov forward in his first Worlds, beat Finnish goalie Joonas Korpisalo with a nice backhand deke. He was the only scorer in the shootout.

In regulation time, Roman Horak, Radko Gudas, and Jan Kovar got goals for the Czechs, and David Pastrnak added two helpers.

For Finland, captain Valtteri Filppula tallied a goal and an assist, and Topi Jaakola and Ville Lajunen also scored for Finland. Mikko Rantanen had two helpers.

"I don't know what happened," said Joonas Jarvinen.

The Czechs, whose last medal was bronze in 2012, have struggled with consistency in this tournament, but this has to be a huge morale-booster. After falling 4-1 to Canada and thumping Belarus 6-1, they outshot Finland 34-21 and never gave up.

The Finns, silver medalists in 2016, were hoping for a bounceback game after their stunning 5-1 loss to host France. And coach Lauri Marjamaki's team got off to a dream start.

"In the beginning, they had a few lucky bounces," said the Czech Republic's Jan Rutta. "I think the score was a bit cruel to us."

Just 58 seconds in, Filppula collected the garbage from Sebastian Aho’s wraparound attempt and pushed it over the line. At 2:41, Finland went up 2-0 when Jaakola’s high shot fluttered past Czech starter Petr Mrazek. And at 13:52, Lajunen hammered a rising shot from the center point that fooled the goalie through traffic to make it 3-0.

"They had a great start," said Czech veteran Tomas Plekanec. "We talked about it a lot before the game, but we found a way to deal with that."

The Finns didn't know it yet, but this dream would turn into a nightmare.

In the second period, the Czechs just couldn't turn on the red light, despite the vigorous chanting of their fans at the AccorHotels Arena. Jan Kovar and David Pastrnak had beautiful chances on the rush, but Korpisalo warded them off. Finnish World Championship rookie Jesse Puljujarvi drew a crowd mid-period after he gave Mrazek a snow shower.

The Czechs’ second-period highlight was when burly defenceman Radko Gudas sent Rantanen tumbling head over heels with a hip check.

The tide finally turned in the third. During the fourth Czech power play, Korpisalo twice stoned Kovar on the doorstep. But he couldn't foil Horak, who took Pastrnak's pass from the goal line and whacked it past Korpisalo's left pad at 7:37.

"The first goal we scored was huge for us on the power play," said Plekanec. "It gave us the feeling we could come back."

Coach Josef Jandac's boys made a spirited late push, and it paid off. Gudas pounded a drive past Korpisalo from the top of the faceoff circle with 2:14 left. Just 23 seconds later, Kovar broke through, capitalizing on Jaakola's defensive-zone giveaway and sliding the puck through both the defenceman's legs and Korpisalo's to tie it up.

"At the end of the game, I think they were a little tired from playing yesterday and we had fresher legs," said Rutta.

Still, Finland had the better chances in overtime. Mrazek foiled Aho on a clear-cut breakaway, and Puljujarvi came close when he charged to the net for a Filppula set-up. But close isn't good enough here. The Finns could have had three points here, but settled for one.

Next up, the Finns take on Slovenia on Wednesday, while the Czechs face Norway on Thursday.