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game recap

Czechs fend off pesky Latvians 5-2

Tuesday, 08.16.2011 / 5:14 AM

John Dellapina - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Czechs fend off pesky Latvians 5-2
Czech Republic 5, Latvia 2
VANCOUVER - The Czechs were rampaging. They were roaring on their way to the game to which they've been pointing all along - Sunday's showdown with Russia. And poor Latvia was merely a speed bump for them to ignore.

But then, for whatever reason, the Czechs took their foot off the pedal. Or, to be more accurate, they stopped driving straight down the road and began weaving all over the place.

So what should have been a routine tune-up turned into a bit of a problem. But if the Czechs have shown anything through two games in these Olympics, it is that they know how to sit on a third-period lead -- and they did just that, until they had hatched a 5-2 victory over Latvia on Friday afternoon in Canada Hockey Place that kept them atop Group B heading into the final set of round-robin games.

As long as they don't lose in regulation to Russia on Sunday, the Czechs will win Group B, the most difficult of the three in this phase of the tournament, and advance directly to Wednesday's quarterfinals.

"It's going to be a helluva game," Czech captain Patrik Elias of the New Jersey Devils said. "On one team you've probably got the most talented guys. It's going to be a challenge. We're looking forward to that. But we have to play a lot better than we did tonight."

Entirely too pleased with themselves after an explosive start gave them a 3-0 lead just 5:07 into the game, the Czechs played for style points rather than goals. It was often pretty to watch, but not very productive.

Though a power-play goal by Tomas Kaberle stretched their lead to 4-0 early in the second period, the Czechs had allowed the Latvians to get their feet back under them after they nearly were knocked out.

"We just stopped," Elias said. "We started kind of holding the puck too much and not moving quick enough and not shooting it and trying to make plays around the net too much instead of taking it right to the net. Those first three goals we made a couple of nice plays. But at the same time, we were shooting the puck a lot so we were creating options."

Said Czech winger Jaromir Jagr, who played a second straight commanding game and again scored a goal and added an assist: "We had the start we wanted to. We wanted to have a good start. That's what we did. First five minutes, we had a lead, 3-0. Then we just stopped playing our hockey. We started playing around and not shooting enough and that's why we stopped playing our game and all of a sudden, it was 4-2 and a battle to the end."

The battle was joined when the Latvians got goals from Kristaps Sotnieks and Girts Ankipans within the final 4:30 of the second to cut it to 4-2. The pro-Latvian crowd -- some Latvians but plenty of Canadians caught up in the infectious celebration -- began chanting "Lat-Vi-A!" The Latvians, with only two NHLers in their lineup, tried to oblige their pleas.

However, just as they had two nights before in holding off Slovakia, the Czechs protected a two-goal lead in the final period until Elias sailed a rink-length shot into an empty net with 18 seconds remaining.

So the Czechs are unblemished, record-wise, going into the match with Russia, which was stunned in a shootout by Slovakia Thursday night. But the Czech machine is hardly firing on all cylinders.

The top line of Elias, Tomas Plekanec and Martin Havlat has yet to really erupt -- and those lengthy lapses in focus and intensity figure to be punished later in the tournament unless the Czechs eliminate them.

But then, they also have a resurgent Jagr dominating the puck on most of his shifts. They've also got a goaltender, Tomas Vokoun, who is playing with confidence -- even amid the predictable rumors that the Florida Panthers might ask him to waive his no-trade clause (they haven't yet) before the NHL trade deadline on March 3.

"Obviously, I follow hockey, so I have read some things," Vokoun said after his 16-save performance. "But I haven't been approached by Florida. So until I hear otherwise I'll just treat them as rumors and I'm playing for Florida."


GAME SUMMARY

SCORING
CZE 3 1 1 - 5
LAT 0 2 0 - 2

First Period

1. CZE, Krejci (Erat, Fleischmann) 2:30
2. CZE, Plekanec (Zidlicky, Rolinek) 3:33
3. CZE, Jagr (Zidlicky, Kaberle) 5:07 (PPG)

Penalties - Vasiljevs LAT (hooking) 4:18, Krejci CZE (roughing) 17:17.


Second Period

4. CZE, Kaberle (Elias, Zidlicky) 6:33 (PPG)
5. LAT, Sotnieks (Vasiljevs) 15:30
6. LAT, Ankipans (Karsums, Pujacs) 18:26 (PPG)

Penalties - Plekanec CZE (holding) :09, Rekis LAT (hooking) 5:02, Rekis LAT (kneeing) 6:38, Sotnieks LAT (interference) 10:47, Sotnieks LAT (hooking) 13:24, Darzins LAT (misconduct) 13:24, Jagr CZE (holding) 17:25.


Third Period

7. CZE, Elias (unassisted) 19:42 (SHG-EN)

Penalties - Rekis LAT (holding) :10, Redlihs LAT (holding) 2:24, Krejci CZE (tripping) 4:15, Rekis LAT (holding) 17:13, Cajanek CZE (slashing) 19:07.


SHOTS ON GOAL
CZE  16 8 15 - 39
LAT   4 7  7 - 18

Goaltenders (goals-shots against) - CZE: Vokoun (W, 2-18); LAT: Masalskis (L, 5-39).

Power plays (goals-chances) - CZE: 2-7; LAT: 1-5.
Czech Republic
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
10 R. Cervenka 5'11" 201 12/10/1985 Praha, CZE
26 P. Elias NJD 6'1" 195 4/13/1976 Trebic, CZE
91 M. Erat WSH 6'0" 196 8/29/1981 Trebic, CZE
67 M. Frolik WPG 6'1" 198 2/17/1988 Kladno, CZE
11 M. Hanzal PHX 6'6" 230 2/20/1987 Pisek, CZE
83 A. Hemsky EDM 6'0" 185 8/13/1983 Pardubice, CZE
68 J. Jagr NJD 6'3" 230 2/15/1972 Kladno, CZE
46 D. Krejci BOS 6'0" 188 4/28/1986 Sternberk, CZE
9 M. Michalek OTT 6'2" 216 12/7/1984 Jindrichuv Hradec, CZE
93 P. Nedved 6'3" 196 12/9/1971 Liberec, CZE
12 J. Novotny 6'3" 204 8/12/1983 Pelhrimov, CZE
18 O. Palat TBL 5'11" 174 3/28/1991 Frydek Mistek, CZE
14 T. Plekanec MTL 5'11" 196 10/31/1982 Kladno, CZE
89 J. Voracek PHI 6'2" 214 8/15/1989 Kladno, CZE
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
8 M. Barinka 6'3" 225 6/12/1984 Vyskov, CZE
3 R. Gudas TBL 6'0" 204 6/5/1990 Prague, CZE
7 T. Kaberle 6'1" 212 3/2/1978 Rakovnik, CZE
25 L. Krajicek 6'3" 205 3/11/1983 Prostejov, CZE
23 Z. Michalek PHX 6'2" 210 12/23/1982 Jindrichuv Hradec, CZE
32 M. Rozsival CHI 6'1" 212 9/3/1978 Vlasim, CZE
5 L. Smid CGY 6'3" 209 2/1/1986 Frydlant, CZE
2 M. Zidlicky NJD 5'11" 190 2/3/1977 Most, CZE
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
1 J. Kovar 6'0" 201 7/19/1988 Pisek, CZE
31 O. Pavelec WPG 6'3" 220 8/31/1987 Kladno, CZE
53 A. Salak 6'1" 190 1/5/1987 Strakonice, CZE
Latvia
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
21 A. Berzins 6'3" 214 12/27/1983 Riga, LAT
47 M. Cipulis 5'11" 187 11/29/1980 Cesis, LAT
10 L. Darzins 6'3" 201 1/28/1985 Riga, LAT
16 K. Daugavins 6'1" 205 5/18/1988 Riga, LAT
28 Z. Girgensons BUF 6'1" 190 1/5/1994 Riga, LAT
70 M. Indrasis 6'3" 187 9/30/1990 Riga, LAT
51 K. Jass 6'0" 192 5/4/1990 Riga, LAT
15 M. Karsums 5'10" 194 2/26/1986 Riga, LAT
91 R. Kenins 6'0" 201 2/28/1991 Riga, LAT
79 V. Pavlovs 6'5" 216 6/17/1989 Riga, LAT
24 M. Redlihs 5'11" 179 7/1/1984 Riga, LAT
5 J. Sprukts 6'3" 225 1/31/1982 Riga, LAT
3 J. Stals 6'3" 207 4/8/1982 Riga, LAT
12 H. Vasiljevs 5'11" 185 5/23/1976 Riga, LAT
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
37 O. Bartulis 6'3" 203 1/21/1987 Ogre, LAT
29 R. Freibergs 5'11" 192 5/17/1991 Riga, LAT
32 A. Kulda 6'2" 216 7/25/1988 Leipzig, GER
8 S. Ozolinsh 6'3" 214 8/3/1972 Sigulda, LAT
81 G. Pujacs 6'0" 216 6/11/1981 Riga, LAT
9 K. Redlihs 6'2" 205 1/15/1981 Riga, LAT
6 A. Rekis 5'11" 198 1/1/1979 Jurmala, LAT
11 K. Sotnieks 6'0" 192 1/29/1987 Riga, LAT
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
50 K. Gudlevskis 6'4" 190 7/31/1992 Aizkraukle, LAT
31 E. Masalskis 5'10" 187 3/31/1980 Riga, LAT
1 E. Mustukovs 6'0" 187 4/7/1984 Riga, LAT