A topsy-turvy game between two of the big contenders in Group A featured clinical breakaways, wonderful composure among both sets of forwards and great character as the Czech Republic fought back to down Sweden 4-2.
A trio of unanswered goals in the second period enabled the Czechs to wipe out a 0-2 deficit and make it three wins from three, paced by three points from Michal Birner.
For David Pastrnak, scorer of the opening Czech goal, these are exciting times to be part of the national set-up.
“We have a young team and we’re excited to be here,” said the young Boston Bruins forward. “We want to show everyone we can play. We have a lot of energy and we’re felling good about our chances. We’ve played three good games now and I think we’re getting better and better.”
But it all started very differently. The Swedes got ahead in the 10th minute on a power play goal from Robert Rosen. The Vaxjo Lakers man opened his World Championship account last night against Norway and here he got the deflection that took Erik Gustafsson’s shot from the point past Pavel Francouz and the video official was satisfied that there was no high stick involved.
The Czechs had their chances to respond, particularly on a power play late in the first. But while the forwards struggled to find a killer chance on Jacob Markstrom a blunder allowed Sweden to snatch a short-handed second.
Michal Repik was the unfortunate forward, coughing up the puck in the Swedish zone and inadvertently setting Mattias Sjogren on a dart up the ice. The Ak Bars Kazan forward was joined by Martin Lundberg, who applied a nerveless finish that left Francouz clutching at thin air.
The Czechs had a good chance to get one back early in the second as the puck travelled a long way across the Swedish zone to find Roman Cervenka in acres of space at the back post. But Cervenka took his time setting up his wrister and Markstrom was able to slide into position and shrug away the danger.
Frustration soon turned to celebration. Cervenka behind the net, waiting for the perfect pass, found David Pastrnak’s stick on the slot. 1-2.
“I just came off the bench and went to the post,” Pastrnak said of his goal. “Roman made a great pass to me and I put it high.”
More composed offence: Jakub Jerabek shaped to shoot but saw Jan Kovar move into a menacing position. Potential slap shot became an inch-perfect pass as the Metallurg Magnitogorsk man turned in yet another big goal in Russia. 2-2.
Then another short-handed goal, this time for Birner, put the Czechs in front deep in the second. Alexander Wennberg lost control of the puck and Birner was in full flight. Gustafsson slid out of position, inviting the Czech forward to shoot over the glove and complete the turnaround.
After all that excitement the third period had much to live up to. Both teams continued to play open, attacking hockey with play switching from end to end at high speed. But it was the Czechs that created the better opportunities with Richard Jarusek twice getting a good look at Markstrom’s net while Cervenka came close after Patrick Cehlin was caught in possession in centre ice.
And the killer goal arrived in the 55th minute with Birner again doing the damage. As before, he swept up a loose puck in centre ice and surged forward, this time shooting from the deep slot and seeing a deflection off a Swedish stick lift the puck beyond Markstrom.
Sweden responded with a bold gamble: the goalie came out with five minutes still to play. It almost backfired at once when Tomas Filippi went close to an empty net goal before Tomas Plekanec clipped the outside of the unprotected post. But the Tre Kronor continued to risk it and Gustafsson was agonisingly close to seeing his slap shot deflected into the net in the 57th minute.