Finnish goalie sets new shutout mark
Finnish goalie Pekka Rinne stretched his personal unbeaten run to 237:05 smashing the record set by Slovakia’s Jan Lasak here in Ostrava in 2004 to set a new post-war mark for goaltending success.
Then the big man helped his team to a shootout victory after a breathless third period had left Finland and Belarus tied at 2-2 in regulation.
Rinne stopped a Sergei Kostitsyn shot on Belarus' first attempt, while at the other end Jarkko Immonen, Joonas Donskoi and Jussi Jokinen got the better of Vitali Koval to give Finland the honours.
The goalie's team-mates were quick to pay tribute to Rinne after he collected the award for Finland's best player in the game. "There is a reason why Rinne is a Vezina candidate in the US," said Tuomo Ruutu. "He is a top notch goaltender and one of the best, if not the best in the game."
Captain Jussi Jokinen, whose penalty shot finally ended the game, added: "Rinne has been unbelievable. Playing the way he has gives our team so much confidence. We will need him for sure the rest of the way."
It was an exciting finish, and one that seemed some way off as the early exchanges were dominated by defences.
After 14:31 of the first period Rinne’s shutout run crept ahead of Lasak’s after the Finn followed up clean sheets against Denmark, Norway and Slovenia before he was rested as Juuse Saros blanked Slovakia in the previous game.
Yevgeni Kovyrshin was the man who finally ended Rinne’s resistance, smashing home a one-timer off Andrei Stepanov’s pass from the top of the circle on 45:09 to put Belarus 1-0 up. Apart from closing a new chapter in World Championship history, Kovyrshin’s strike could have become a vital goal for his country as it sought a win that would confirm a second successive quarter-final appearance.Continue reading
But Finland has shown plenty of patience in this year’s World Championship and once again Kari Jalonen’s men stuck to the game plan and delivered a knock-out double salvo midway through the third period. Donskoi and Teemu Hartikainen scored in the space of 54 seconds.
Returning to the crease against a Belarus team anxious to atone for its 0-7 drubbing against Russia, Rinne survived the early stages of the game with relatively little danger to establish an individual shutout record to go with the team shutout tally established during the Slovakia game.
The Nashville Predators’ backstop made five fairly routine saves to keep his goal intact until the 15th minute but shortly after the clock ticked past Lasak’s 206:26 tally he showed his class. Andrei Stepanov wriggled his way through for a one-on-one meeting but Rinne stayed big and blocked his shot at the near post, reminding everyone why forwards have found him so tough to solve in this competition. Even when shots finally got past Rinne there was still no joy for Belarus: Artur Gavrus almost wrecked the record-breaking attempt as he clipped the crossbar in the sixth minute and 10 minutes later Nikolai Stasenko rattled the piping with a blast from the point.
Rinne wasn’t the only goalie in the spotlight. At the other end Vitali Koval made his first appearance of the competition in place of the injured Kevin Lalande. He was relatively untroubled in the first period but had a busier time in the second, doing well to block a shot from Aleksander Barkov after the forward produced a dazzling dangle to slip the puck through his own legs. He also got a pad in front of Donskoi’s close-range effort after Finland executed a menacing breakaway midway through the second as Suomi sought a stranglehold on the game.
"We got the right tactics for this game," said Belarus D-man Dmitri Korobov. "Our concentration was better and we were winning our battles every time we needed to."
That ensured that this time the Finns could not force the breakthrough and it was Belarus that went in front early in the third through Kovyrshin. That lead might have been extended soon afterwards as Belarus earned a 5-on-3 advantage for 70 seconds. Rinne was at his athletic best to deny Ivan Usenko and Stepanov from distance and then block Gavrus on the doorstep to preserve his team’s remarkable record of not conceding on the PK throughout the tournament.
Ruutu rated that passage as one of the key moments in the game. "It was a big kill that’s for sure," he said. "It did get us going and we scored those goals. It would have been nice to get a win in regulation."
Sadly for Belarus its own penalty kill has been less effective and after a blunder on a line change Finland punished Dave Lewis’s team. Esa Lidell revved up on the blue line but instead of shooting the D-man passed for Donskoi to rifle in a one-timer that looped into the net off Koval’s shoulder.
Within a minute it was 2-1. Koval was left stranded by a wild shot from Topi Jaakola that cannoned off the boards and presented Teemu Hartikainen with a tap in that the Salavat Yulayev Ufa forward gleefully tucked away to turn the game on its head.
"That penalty [for having too many men on the ice] was a matter of milimetres," said Belarus forward Stepanov. "But we kept playing, we didn't throw up our hands and surrender and we got a point that's very important for us."
With just 30 seconds left and Koval on the bench captain Alexei Kalyuzhny tied it up with a mighty shot from the right-hand face-off spot that not even a record-breaking goalie could get near.
Overtime saw the Finns have the bulk of the play, but Rinne still had to be alert to deny Gavrus while Koval produced a big solid pad save on a meaty shot from Lindell but neither team could force a winner before the shootout.
The win puts Finland level on points with the Russia as the teams meet in their final game looking to overhaul the USA's one-point advantage at the top of Group B. Belarus remains fourth, three points ahead of Slovakia, and can guarantee its progress with a point against Norway on Tuesday regardless of the outcome of the Slovaks’ game against the Americans.
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