BostonBruins.com - It was a third period any hockey fan would appreciate. The tension was high, the back-and-forth action at a premium, and both sides fought until the end.
The Boston faithful was likely torn between the opponents, with David Krejci facing off against Zdeno Chara in a do-or-die playoff round in Sochi, Russia on Tuesday.
Captain Chara and Slovakia fought back from a 4-0 deficit, and kept building steam in the third period, but it was Krejci and the Czech Republic ultimately moving on to the quarterfinals with a 5-3 victory.
For Krejci, who notched his first goal of the tournament and an assist on the empty-netter that sealed it, the win was showcased in his postgame smile.
For Chara, who played a monster of a game with his team on the brink of elimination, the cause fell short, and represented a difficult week on the ice for his native country.
Slovakia ended the tournament without a win, losing three times in regulation and once in a shootout. Despite the fight shown in the comeback sparking some belief, Big Zee will no doubt leave Sochi wishing it had played out much differently in his third Olympics.
"That's the million dollar question, it's tough to say," Chara told NHL.com, when asked what went wrong. "We had a rough game the first game against the U.S. That game kind of put us really down mentally, our confidence was not there."
"But we bounced back against Russia and played our strongest game of this tournament. We thought we would follow up on that game, and obviously we didn't. It's a big disappointment and we'll have to look back and figure out what went wrong."
The Czechs jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period that included two power-play goals, with one coming off the stick of Krejci. Positioning himself in the right faceoff circle, Krejci wound up, anticipating the pass from Tomas Kaberle and absolutely ripped the one-timer top shelf for the three-goal cushion heading to the second.
Slovakia began to gain more confidence towards the end of the middle frame, despite a bad bounce at the blueline turning into a near breakaway and 4-0 lead for the Czechs. Marian Hossa added two goals at the end of the second and start of the third to turn the game up a notch. Slovakia reduced the deficit to 4-3 just 1:31 later to turn it into a race to the finish.
With time ticking down, the Slovaks had to kill off a penalty in the final minute of play. They pulled the goaltender for the extra attacker in a last effort to force overtime, but Krejci took control of the puck and banked a pass off the boards up to Tomas Plekanec, who sealed the 5-3 with an empty-netter.
Krejci finished with 17:25 in ice time, played in all situations and went 67-percent in the faceoff circle, while recording a goal and an assist.
Chara led his team in ice time (24:19), and fired numerous shot attempts with three making it to the goal. His was driving hard to the net on Hossa's second tally that set Slovakia's push in motion.
While Big Zee's tournament comes to an end, Krejci and the Czech Republic will next meet the United States in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, February 19, at 12:00 p.m. ET (live on USA Network).
"I'm not putting myself down, but if we played best-of-seven I don't like my chances," Krejci said, of facing Team USA. "But best-of-one? We're going to try to score the first goal and leave everything out there because we don't have to save ourselves for anything."
"Just go out there, play the game and we'll see what happens."
The four Bruins still in action in Sochi all face off on Wednesday, February 19, in the quarterfinals.
Here's the run-down:
Sweden (Loui Eriksson) vs. Slovenia - 3:00 a.m. ET - NBCSN
Finland (Tuukka Rask) vs. Russia - 7:30 a.m. ET - NBCSN
Canada (Patrice Bergeron) vs. Latvia - 12:00 p.m. ET - MSNBC
Czech Republic (David Krejci) vs. United States - 12:00 p.m. ET - USA Network