Grabner powers Austria past Norway
Sunday, 02.16.2014 / 6:27 AM
SOCHI -- Austria coach Emanuel Viveiros decided after two games of trying to find balance against two of the sport's giants that it was time to put his three NHL forwards together against a more equitable level of competition.
It proved a wise decision. New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner scored twice and assisted on the other goal to help Austria defeat Norway 3-1 in a battle of previously winless teams in Group B play.
The win allowed Austria to finish ninth in the preliminary round. They'll next face the eigth-seed, Slovenia, in a qualification-round game Tuesday. The winner of that game will face top-seeded Sweden in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Norway finished 12th and will play fifth-seeded Russia in a qualification game Tuesday. The winner of that game will play No. 4 seed Finland in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
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"This is a lot of fun," said Austria captain Thomas Vanek, a teammate of Grabner with the Islanders. "For a lot of the guys, it is a lot of work to get here. We knew we were going to be outmatched in the first two games but I think the fight and the positive in the room didn't leave and that's my job to keep spirits up and stay positive. … We fought hard and our goalie played great. In the end, I thought we deserved to win."
Goal prevention was a problem for the Austrians in losses to Finland and Canada. Their 14 goals allowed was four more than any other team through two games, but goaltender Mathias Lange made 34 saves to collect the win.
"After two games, we gave up 14 goals so we had to do something with our roster," Viveiros said. "It's not that the other players didn't play well, but we had to shake things up a little bit."
Grabner put Austria in front 4:27 into the first period. Defenseman Thomas Pock sent a pass from the top of the right circle to Grabner, who was cutting toward the net, and he chipped it past Norway goaltender Lars Haugen from the inside of the left circle.
There is more open space to operate on the international ice surface, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easier for Grabner to exploit it.
"I think it is harder on the big ice," said Grabner, who iced the win by scoring on a breakaway with 1:37 left in regulation. "The d-men stay a little further back, so you have to make up more ground. In the NHL, you take a couple steps and you're behind them."
Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl scored what proved to be the winning goal at 6:52. Grabner gave the puck to Raffl on the goal line to the right of the net, and he darted to toward the cage unmarked before slipping a shot off the far post and past Haugen for a power-play goal.
At that point, it looked like it would be a long day for the Norwegians, who played well in a 3-1 loss to Canada in their opening game before losing 6-1 to Finland. But Norway regrouped quickly, creating the next 14 shots on goal.
Norway cut the deficit in half at 8:05 of the second period. Per-Age Skroder was alone at the edge of the crease and ex-NHL forward Patrick Thoresen found him from behind the net. Skroder has two of Norway's three goals in the tournament.
Grabner made it five goals in three games and iced the win when he got behind the Norwegian defense for a breakaway and deked past Haugen before sliding the puck into the wide-open net.
Austria and Norway were in the same group at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics; they were winless when they met in the final game of the stage, a contest in the Austrians won. Norway won a rematch during consolation play.
"I think we're all realistic here," Vanek said. "If we draw a big nation, we know we're probably not going to beat them, but why not be positive and give it our best shot?"
2 0 1 - 3
0 1 0 - 1
1. AUT, Grabner (Pock, Lukas) 4:27
2. AUT, Raffl - PPG (Grabner) 6:52
Penalties - Vanek AUT (roughing) 0:51, Ask NOR (roughing) 5:52, Altmann AUT (slashing) 12:35, Raffl AUT (high sticking) 13:23
3. NOR, Skroder (Thoresen) 8:05
Penalties - Zuccarello NOR (hooking) 5:08, Herburger AUT (roughing) 9:40, Olimb NOR (interference) 14:05
4. AUT, Grabner (Welser) 18:23
Penalties - Lakos AUT (tripping) 1:08, Thoresen NOR (interference) 1:35, Altmann AUT (tripping) 6:09
SHOTS ON GOAL
10 10 7 - 27
17 8 10 - 35
(saves-shots against) - AUT: Lange (W, 34-35); NOR: Haugen (L, 24-27)
(goals-chances) - AUT: 1-4; NOR: 0-6