International Ice Hockey Federation

Czechs earn first win, 4-2

Jagr, 42 tomorrow, scores in impressive win

Published 14.02.2014 14:48 GMT+4 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Czechs earn first win, 4-2
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 11: Latvia's Edgars Masalskis #31 covers up the puck while Kristaps Sotnieks #11, Arturs Kulda #32 and Kaspars Daugavins #16 keep watch on Milan Michalek #9 of the Czech Republic during men's preliminary round action at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Latvia twice rallied to tie the game but the relentless Czech Republic kept the pressure on for a key 4-2 win.

The win gives the Czechs three points in Group C standings with a record of 1-1 while the Latvians fall to 0-2.

"We always feel good," joked a good-humoured Jagr after the game. "We’re from the Czech Republic. We’re always loose. We’re always having fun. No pressure! We have to probably win at least four games. No big deal."

"I felt we played a good game," said Janis Sprukts. "We started a bit slow in the beginning because it's just hard to get into the game in the morning. But we came back with a lot of energy and tried to be in the game as much as possible. We created some good chances."

The Czechs opened the scoring at 10:10 on a harmless-looking play. David Krejci skated in over the Latvian blue line and dropped the puck for Martin Erat. Erat ripped a low shot through the pads of Masalskis, using defenceman Oskars Bartulis as a screen.

Much of the period’s excitement, though, came on a Latvian power play later in the period. With Martin Hanzal in the penalty box for tripping, Sprukts scored a goal on a quick shot from the back side. The puck hit a camera in the back of the net and came out so quickly, none of the officials noticed. Play continued, and Tomas Plekanec had two good chances to score short-handed.

Moments later, the Czechs took another penalty and the play was reviewed. The review showed Sprukts’s shot went in, and IIHF rules also dictate that the penalty stands, making it a 1-1 game with Latvia back on the power play.

"I think we played pretty good in the first period," suggested David Krejci. "They scored kind of a lucky goal on the power play, but it happens. I thought we controlled the game. We played with the puck, so that’s how the Czech team needs to play."

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The team failed to score, however, and the Czechs got a late man advantage on which they connected. Jaromir Jagr got a loose puck in the slot and snapped a shot to the far side with just 30.1 seconds left in the period to give the team a 2-1 lead.

The Latvians, though, tied the game again early in the second. Herberts Vasiljevs was left unguarded in the slot when a puck squirted out of a scrum in the corner right to him. He snapped a quick shot off the far post and past a surprised Ondrej Pavelec at 2:45 to make it 2-2.

That was the last time the game felt close. The Czechs scored two more goals later in the period and controlled play, preventing Pavelec from having to face many difficult shots. Zbynek Michalek drifted a quick point shot that was tipped one-handed in front by Jakub Voracek, and the puck dipped perfectly past Masalskis at 7:06 to give the Czechs a lead they never relinquished.

Late in the period the Czechs made it 4-2 when Masalskis fumbled a shot by Petr Nedved. Martin Hanzal banged at the puck, and then Marek Zidlicky jammed it over the line before he could be checked.

The Latvians had one final chance late in the game whey they were presented with a two-man advantage for 57 seconds, but good pressure failed to result in a goal.

"It’s not a one-day tournament," noted Kaspars Daugavins. "It’s two weeks almost. The first three games, no matter how many games you win, you might not make it to the gold medal. You can lose the first three and still win the gold."

Both teams finish their preliminary round tomorrow. The Czechs face Switzerland and Latvia goes up against Sweden.

"We didn't have enough time to sleep last night to be honest, but it is what it is and it's the same for everyone," said Jakub Voracek. "We've got three games in four days, so it's a tough schedule. We have to focus on our hockey."