US stuns defending-champion Finland
After appearing unbeatable in its first four games at the 2012 IIHF World Hockey Championship, defending champion and tournament co-host Finland followed up a 5-3 loss to Canada Friday with an unhinged and undisciplined performance against the Americans. Thanks to a goal and an assist from both Chris Butler and Max Pacioretty as well as 18 stops from Jimmy Howard, the United States shocked the Finns 5-0, sending an early-tournament favorite into a sudden and unexpected free fall.
Just two days after being pushed to overtime by an upstart Kazakhstan squad, the United States raced out to a first-period lead against the Finns and never looked back. The Americans came out flying in the opening frame, outshooting the host nation 10-4 and leading 1-0 after 20 minutes thanks to a goal from Pacioretty. The goal came just eight seconds after Kyle Palmieri and Mikko Koivu received offsetting minors, providing plenty of open space on the international ice surface in the ensuing 4-on-4 situation.
The Americans continued to overwhelm Finnish goaltender Kari Lehtonen in the second, firing 11 shots in the period and forcing the Finns into drawing a number of penalties, none costlier than Mikael Granlund's slashing call, which led to Justin Faulk's fourth goal of the tournament. The power-play marker, assisted by Pacioretty, gave the United States a commanding 3-0 lead with just 2:04 remaining in the second period.
The barrage did not end in the third, as Butler and Bobby Ryan scored 1:56 apart early in the period, effectively ending the game in front of a stunned pro-Finnish crowd. Things went from bad to worse from there for the co-host nation. Just 55 seconds after Ryan put the Americans up 5-0, Anssi Salmela showed an uncharacteristic lack of discipline when he ran Alex Goligoski into the boards from behind. Salmella, who had received only one two-minute minor in the entire tournament coming into the game, received a five-minute boarding major as well as a game misconduct and could be subjected to IIHF discipline for the hit. Then, with 7:30 remaining in regulation, Lehtonen was forced to exit the game after appearing to hurt his ankle following a collision with Ryan. With the win, the United States earned a berth in the tournament quarterfinals.
The 5-0 dismantling marks the first time in the modern tournament era that the United States has beaten the defending world champion in the preliminary round and the first time they have beaten a defending champion since a 3-2 win over the Czech Republic in the qualifying round of the 2006 tournament.
Impressive as the American performance was, Finland's sudden slump may be even more shocking. After allowing just three goals in their first four tournament games, the Finns have since allowed 10 goals in their last two games and been outscored 9-0 in their last 94:31. Finland next plays Kazakhstan Monday while the Americans have two days off before concluding preliminary-round play Tuesday against Switzerland.
Russia 2, Czech Republic 0
Evgeni Malkin scored his tournament-leading seventh goal of the IIHF World Championship on the power play and Russia remained the only undefeated team in the tourney, as Russia topped the Czechs 2-0.
While both teams will likely qualify for quarterfinals, it was the Russians who maintained their dominance over the competition. Russia controlled the game from the beginning as Alexander Perezhogin opened the scoring just 24 seconds into a first period that saw the Russians outshoot the Czech Republic 14-7.
The Czechs kept Malkin and the Russians in check, but the game was put out of reach after Lukas Krajicek received an interference minor at the end of the second period with Martin Erat already in the box for hooking. The Czech Republic would kill off Erat's minor, but Malkin scored his game-clinching goal just four seconds after the Predators' forward left the penalty box. It was the eighth power-play goal, and the third for Maklin, by a Russian unit that came into the game leading the tournament in power-play efficiency.
Konstantin Barulin made 30 saves for the shutout and Malkin continued his dominance of the 2012 World Championship. After leading the National Hockey League in scoring this season, his seven tourney goals are almost double the next highest total, which is the four goals scored by Ales Hemsky, Jordan Eberle, and John Tavares. He also leads the tournament in points (13) and plus/minus (plus-11).
Norway 12, Germany 4
Patrick Thoresen scored a hat trick and contributed three assists and Morten Ask assisted on four consecutive goals as Norway scored the first nine goals of the game to easily defeat Germany 12-4.
From the drop of the puck, Thoresen paced the Norwegian effort, scoring twice in the game's first 1:28. Shortly after Martin Roymark put Norway up 3-0 just 5:07 into the game, German coach Jakob Kolliker replaced starting goaltender Dennis Endras in favor of Dimitri Kotschnew. The goaltending change momentarily halted the Norwegian offensive surge, but things would only get worse from there.
Norway scored six more goals in the second, including Thoresen's third of the game, before Patrick Reimer finally got Germany on the board with just 95 seconds remaining in the period. Kolliker would put Endras back in the crease to start the third, only to pull him again for Kotschnew when Mats Trygg put Norway up 12-3. The 12 goals in a game are the most by any team in the tournament, which has seen 13 of 45 games end in a shutout.
After winning their group in last year's World Championship and finishing ahead of hockey powers Russia and Slovakia, Germany's disappointing performance at the 2012 tournament may be remembered most for this dismantling at the hands of the Norwegians. The win improved Norway's record to 3-2-1, giving them a strong chance of qualifying for the tournament quarterfinal for the second straight year.
Slovakia 1, Switzerland 0
Tomas Tatar scored the game's lone goal late in the first period and Jan Lacco made 21 saves to earn a 1-0 shutout win over the disappointing Swiss, who will not qualify for the quarterfinals at the World Hockey Championship after playing in the playoff round of the worlds in three of the last five years.
Ironically, it was during a slow-paced first period in which the teams combined for 11 shots that the game's only goal was scored. It occurred with 1:47 left in the opening frame, when Juraj Mikus picked up a loose puck before finding Tatar in the slot. The Red Wings prospect beat Swiss goaltender Reto Berra to give the Slovakians the only lead they would need. The win put Slovakia on the verge of qualifying for the tournament quarterfinals but came at a cost, as Marcel Hossa was hurt in the second period and did not return.
Slovakia closes out the preliminary round Tuesday against France while Switzerland's tournament will end that same day against Latvia.