|Kovalchuk led the Worlds with 12 points in nine games (2g-10a). |
Florida Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun stopped 35 shots as the Czech Republic stunned Russia on Sunday to win gold at the IIHF World Championship in Cologne, Germany.
Jakub Klepis and Tomas Rolinek were the goal scorers as the Czechs snapped a 27-game win streak for Russia at the event and denied the nation’s hopes for a third consecutive world title.
The game drew 19,132 fans to a sold-out Lanxess Arena, a World Championship attendance record for an indoor game.
Vokoun, who shut out Canada 3-0 in the gold-medal game in 2005, came within 35 seconds of another impeccable performance before Pavel Datsyuk scored off a one-timer, ripping home a feed from Ilya Kovalchuk
with Russia goalie Semyon Varlamov on the bench for a sixth attacker.
"Vokoun is the best goalkeeper not only in this World Championship, but in the whole world," Czech Republic coach Vladimir Ruzicka told the IIHF website.
"We were huge underdogs coming into the tournament, and we almost didn't even make it to the playoff stage," Vokoun added. "You always read about those great stories, and now it's happened to me."
Kovalchuk, captain of the Russian team, was the tournament's leading scorer with 12 points (2g-10a) in nine games. He finished a plus-8.
It took only 20 seconds for the Czechs to take a lead they would never relinquish, as Jaromir Jagr capitalized on a turnover behind the Russia net and fed the puck in front to a wide-open Klepis. With Varlamov out of position, Klepis had an open net in which to score for a 1-0 advantage.
Vokoun was stellar in the opening 20 minutes and also fortunate the period didn’t last a second longer. Russia thought it had drawn even when Datsyuk scored from a tight angle, but the horn to end the period beat the puck entering the net.
Rolinek made it 2-0 with 1:47 left in the second period. Karel Rachunek sent the puck toward the net and it deflected off the skate of a hard-charging Rolinek and past Varlamov. Video review determined there was no distinct kicking motion, and what turned out to be the game-winning goal was allowed to stand.
"This was probably the biggest surprise in hockey history," Jagr told the IIHF site. "They had stars and we had guys who play in the Czech Republic, but this shows that talent doesn't matter -- you have to work hard."
Despite having a 6-on-3 advantage at one point late in the game due to a pair of Czech penalties and pulling the goalie, Russia couldn't manage anything more than Datsyuk's last-minute tally.
"I think we did a good job trying in the end, but it's disappointing, every time you lose the final," defenseman Sergei Gonchar told the IIHF site. "I think we deserved to take the game into overtime."
There is speculation this game could have marked the end of the international careers of Jagr, 38, and 40-year-old Sergei Fedorov of Russia.
"I hope it wasn't my last game [with the national team]," Jagr said. "I love the game, and want to play as long as possible."