No through road
No through road
Finland shuts out third successive opponent
Finland posted its third win in a row to banish the spectre of its opening-day loss to the USA and pile on the pressure for struggling Slovenia.
Goalie Pekka Rinne delivered a third successive shut-out in Thursday evening’s game, and Suomi has now played more than 190 minutes of hockey since the puck flew past the Nashville Predators’ goalie early in the third period of that 5-1 drubbing against the Americans.
It wasn’t, perhaps, the giant Finn’s busiest engagement between the piping: Slovenia mustered barely a dozen shots on his net and after one smart stop early on to deny Jan Urbas he found his concentration tested more than his reflexes until a belated rally early in the third.
While the Nordic nation goes to 3-1 and joins a log-jam of three teams on nine points, Slovenia is yet to get off the mark in this competition and desperately needs to turn some promising performances into tangible reward if it is to stave off the threat of relegation.
Thursday’s game was effectively ended by two Finnish goals in 41 first-period seconds. Goalie Gasper Kroselj, the third man to guard the net in four games in Ostrava, was in action in the first minute to deny Joonas Donskoi and Suomi needed little encouragement to seize control of the game.
Leo Komarov opened the scoring on 5:53, leading a rush down the left and seeing Janne Pesonen and Joonas Kemppainen get caught up in a scramble in front of the net before gliding in to fire home the loose puck.Continue reading
On 6:34 it was 2-0 with a goal that bore all the hallmarks of Finland’s play in this tournament. Sami Lepisto thumped in a shot from the blue line and it cannoned off a defender into the path of Petri Kontiola. The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl forward didn’t really get hold of his shot but it still had enough to squeeze through Kroselj’s pads.
"Against the smaller countries it's always important to score the first goal," Komarov said. "That way you can relax a little bit. If they score first they will back up and make it hard."
Slovenia’s offence had been limited to a single chance on a turnover in centre ice: Tomas Razingar won the puck, Anze Kopitar fed Urbas but Rinne was alert to the danger. The goalie was his usual model of composure throughout; Slovenia, shattered by a late, late loss against Slovakia last time out, seemed sluggish as the Finns bossed the game.
The second period continued in similar vein. Aleksander Barkov stretched the lead within 79 second of the restart. As Jussi Jokinen looked for a counter attack Mitja Robar went to close down the puck, only to be taken out of the play by a pass that sprang Donskoi into a shooting position. Kroselj stopped his attempt but a big rebound invited Barkov to fire home.
For Donskoi, who was given the man-of-the-match award, things are getting easier as he and his team-mates tune in to each other's game.
"Our line is getting better all the time and we're getting a lot of scoring chances," he said. "Even though I usually play with Kemppainen at Karpat I didn't expect to be playing with him here. And I know both these guys so it's getting easier to play with them every time."
The intensity dropped somewhat after that, although a Slovenia penalty enabled Kemppainen to add to the two goals he scored against Norway and make it 4-0 in the 36th minute.
The third stanza was mostly about Rinne preserving his shut-out and, aside from one scramble early in the session he was largely untroubled. By the closing stages the Finnish fans were singing the goalie's name as their team closed out a comfortable win.
"We weren't particularly playing to get Pekka a clean sheet, we were just playing," Komarov added. "We did what we had to do. We needed the three points and we got them."
Finland returns to action on Saturday against Slovakia in a game that could all but confirm a play-off place for last year’s silver medallist. Before that Slovenia, the only team in the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship still without a single point, goes on to face Norway on Friday afternoon in a big game in the Group B relegation battle.
Head coach Matjaz Kopitar hoped his team could learn from the Finns ahead of that game. "The Finns are disciplined, they know what they want all the time," he said. "When they're on the ice they do the right things. We will take this as a good preparation for the up-coming games."
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