Canada Holds Off Czech Republic Comeback For Second Win
Canadian captain Kevin Bieksa lost a tooth, but his team won. Canada scored twice on a slashing major to Jan Kovar, downing the Czechs 4-3 on Monday.
Joel Ward stepped up with a goal and an assist, and Matt Read, Nathan MacKinnon, and Morgan Rielly all chipped in their first career World Championship goals for Canada.
Roman Cervenka, Jiri Novotny, and Tomas Hertl replied for the Czech Republic.
Bieksa, nicknamed “Juice,” is one of the NHL’s tougher competitors as a nine-year Vancouver Canucks blueliner. He left no doubt about his inner fortitude as Canada claimed its second consecutive win in regulation.
The Chizhovka Arena PA has been blasting Nickelback’s “Something In Your Mouth,” and the Canadian band’s hit was an appropriate pick here. Bieksa may have had a tough night from a dental perspective, but the Czechs were also left with a bad taste in their mouths after taking their second defeat of 2014.
Goalie James Reimer, who received some criticism back home after Canada’s opening 3-2 shootout loss to France, bounced back with a strong performance. Jakub Kovar got his first start of the tournament, but was pulled in favour of Alexander Salak after allowing four goals. The Czechs outshot Canada 34-20.
The Czechs enjoyed territorial dominance early on, with Jagr’s line often controlling the puck in the Canadian zone. Near the five-minute mark, Jiri Sekac got loose in front of Reimer, deked to the backhand, and rang it high off the goalie’s left post. Moments later, Novotny put one off the other post.
At 5:55, the Czechs drew first blood. They got a partial 3-on-1 break after Bieksa got caught trying to jump up in the neutral zone. Jakub Klepis grabbed the puck and made a slick backhanded pass to Vladimir Sobotka, who found Cervenka in the right faceoff circle, and his shot squeezed past Reimer.
Halfway through the first, Canada tied the game on Ward’s third goal of this World Championship. A forechecking Sean Monahan found the winger at the top of the right circle, and Ward roofed it past Kovar’s blocker before the goalie could budge.
Shots were 13-4 for the Czechs in the opening 20 minutes, and Canada was fortunate to escape tied. However, it was the opposite story in the second period.
Canada jumped into a 2-1 lead at 3:22. Read lost the puck after splitting the Czech defence on a rush, but Turris was right there to take the loose disc and zip it low inside Kovar’s left post. It was just the sixth shot the goalie from the KHL’s Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg had faced.
The Czechs had three minor penalties by the halfway mark of the game, but Canada was unable to capitalize. Monahan was sent off for high-sticking a few minutes later, but the Czechs struggled to generate quality opportunities.
The advantage was nullified when a forechecking Jan Kovar cut Bieksa in the mouth, and blood was spattered across the ice.
It didn’t take Canada long to capitalize on the ensuing major. MacKinnon hammered a rebound into a gaping net at 16:07 to make it 3-1.
Interestingly, MacKinnon was just 18 years and 253 days old when he scored, while Sidney Crosby was 18 years and 271 days old when he potted his first Worlds marker in Riga 2006. An 18-year-old Paul Kariya, however, was the youngest player ever to score for Canada (1993) since the country began sending NHL pros to this tournament in 1977.
Just 17 seconds later, on a set-up from Bieksa, Rielly floated one past Kovar’s glove with Alex Burrows screening in front for a 4-1 lead.
In the third period, the Czechs mounted a dangerous comeback that just fell short, outshooting the Canadians 18-5.
On a Jiri Hudler set-up, Novotny pounded a centre point drive through Reimer's pads to make it 4-2 at even strength with 7:49 left.
With Jason Garrison off for slashing, Hertl sent the pro-Czech crowd into a frenzy just 49 seconds later when he collected the rebound from a Jagr shot and lifted a backhand past Reimer in the crease. Hertl, a World Championship rookie at age 20, has four points so far.
In a closing push, the Czechs stormed Reimer's crease and the Toronto netminder lost his goal stick, but that flurry ended when Jagr was penalized for a high stick that knocked Jason Chimera's helmet off. Hudler took an interference penalty in the final minute, which messed with coach Vladimir Ruzicka's plan to get his goalie out for the extra attacker.
This is one of the more even rivalries at the IIHF World Championship. Since becoming an independent nation in 1993, the Czechs have beaten Canada 12 times and lost seven times, but the games are usually hard-fought affairs.
The Czechs were without defenceman Roman Polak, who received a shoulder injury in the opening 3-2 win over Slovakia, and will miss the rest of the tournament.