Norway's PP too good for Slovenia
Patrick Thoresen, Anders Bastiansen and Jonas Holos found the net to extract maximum punishment for Slovenia’s indiscretions and pace Norway to a second successive victory.
Both teams had this penciled in as a must-win, but for very different reasons. Slovenia, still unable to get off the mark in 2015, was in urgent need of points to kick-start its survival bid. Norway, meanwhile, lifted by a 3-2 win over Slovakia last time out, was looking for a chance to force its way into the play-off reckoning following a rough start against the group’s three biggest hitters.
But it was the Scandinavian special teams that made all the difference, scoring on the first three power plays of the afternoon to add to two PP markers in the win over Slovakia on Wednesday.
Thoresen struck first in the ninth minute. Ales Music barely had time to sit down in the penalty box before the SKA St. Petersburg forward was on hand to force home the rebound off Mathis Olimb’s shot from the top of the circle.
That was the only scoring in the first period as neither team’s offence really clicked into gear but after a Slovenian equalizer right at the start of the second the Norwegian power play delivered its decisive blows. Bastiansen quickly reinstated the lead, firing through Robert Kristan’s five-hole off a pass from Ken Andre Olimb.
Olimb explained that Norway had reshuffled the power play a bit ahead of the game. "Usually I'm with [Andreas] Martinsen, like at Dusseldorf, but today he was on a different line for the PP," he said. "It was good that we were able to contribute some goals."Continue reading
And with just over a minute to go until the second intermission Holos added to his first-period assist with a thunderous shot that ripped past Kristan as Thoresen and Morten Ask put traffic in front of the net.
When the teams were at equal strength Slovenia was far more competitive. Jan Mursak supplied a clinical finish off Anze Kopitar’s defence-splitting diagonal just 15 seconds after the first intermission, leveling the scores and ushering in a spell of Slovenian pressure. Chances came – usually off Norwegian errors – and Kopitar, Tomas Razingar and Robert Sabolic all had opportunities that missed the target as the team at the bottom of Group B worked hard to try to improve its sorry situation.
Goalie Kristan is adamant that better things will come for Slovenia. "There's no question of confidence or belief," he said. "We believe in each other we still believe we are going to win games and there are still two games left. We'll keep playing like this and hopefully in the end we can get a victory.
"We just need to get more shots on the net, generate traffic around there and maybe just grab a dirty rebound to get us into the game."
But as the third period got underway the Norwegians began to pose more of a threat at equal strength. Slovenia was forced to gamble on offence and that created gaps for Norway to rush the net. Kristan need a strong hand to deny Niklas Roest from close range and then had to be watchful as he team finally managed to kill a penalty midway through the final stanza.
At the other end of the ice there were few alarms. Norway knew it could just keep the opposition at arm's length to close out the game; Slovenia's offence found it hard to generate clear chances without recourse to the errors of others and finished with just four shots on goal in the final session. The closest we came to a goal was in the dying seconds when Roest hit the post of the empty net after Kristan fled to the bench in the hope of triggering a late flourish.
Norway now goes on to face Denmark and finally Belarus, knowing that two more victories could be enough to complete an impressive recovery in the group and take it the quarter finals for the first time since 2012. Slovenia, meanwhile, is on a collision course with Denmark in what looks like a two-horse race to avoid relegation. The pair meet on Monday in a potential win-or-bust showdown for both nations.
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