HELSINKI, FINLAND -- Jeff Skinner had a goal and assist in the second period after taking a bad penalty to help rally Canada for a 5-3 over Finland and claim top spot in Group A.
Cam Ward stopped 35 of 38 shots in what was his busiest and most impressive start to date this year.
"I think we picked it up and got better," Skinner said. "Later in the game we got back on the forechecking and started to get chnces that we didn't have in the early parts of the game."
The win moves Canada to 13 points, one ahead of Finland. Canada now has a 4-0-1-0 record while the Finns suffer their first loss and drop to 4-0-0-1. The game was by far the biggest test for both teams and also the most exciting, played against a blue and white backdrop of 13,059 screaming, pro-Finland fans at a sold out Hartwall Arena.
"The first period was great, even the second, but when they got the lead in the third, we just couldn't get back," said Valtteri Filppula. "We couldn't play full 60 minutes the way we wanted, but I don't want to take anything away from Canada."
The Finns came out firing on all cylinders and took advantage of some lack of discipline from Canada. They got the only two goals of the opening period to take control.
On the first, Kyle Quincey gave the puck up just outside the Canadian blue line and Niko Kapanen wheeled into the offensive end. He got a pass to Antti Pihlström who whipped a backhand with his back to the Canadian goal that fooled Ward at 5:53.
Then, Canada took two quick penalties by Quincey and Dion Phaneuf. Finland didn’t score on the five-on-three (for 18 seconds) but it did get one before Phaneuf’s two minutes were up. Duncan Keith saved a goal by clearing the puck off the goal line as it was rolling in, but he fired it right onto the stick of captain Mikko Koivu, who fired it right back – and in.
Keith led all players with 26:12 of ice time.
Coach Brent Sutter called a time out to settle down his team, but Canada had little success in penetrating the collective Finnish defence and managed only four shots all period to Suomi’s 15.
The second period saw several changes in momentum. Canada came out with much greater determination and capitalized on a nice play by Alexandre Burrows, playing his first game in a week. Holding the puck behind the Finland net, he waited for Andrew Ladd to charge to the crease before coming out front, holding onto the puck instead of passing, and snapping a quick shot to the far side of Kari Lehtonen’s goal.
But rather than build on the goal, Canada took another senseless penalty. This time it was an elbowing call to Skinner. Finland made him pay. Jesse Joensuu made a great pass from the point to Jussi Jokinen at the right faceoff dot, and he wired a one-timer in to restore the two-goal lead, 3-1.
Sutter could have benched Skinner or made him the scapegoat, but he didn’t. And Skinner then took over, being the dominant player the rest of the period. Kris Russell, playing his first game for Canada, cleared the puck from the end red line to the far blue line where Skinner picked the puck up and went in on a two-on-one with John Tavares. Skinner made the perfect pass, and Tavares ripped a one-timer home to cut the Finland lead to 3-2 at 14:41.
Then, late in the period, Skinner came onto the ice on a line change and kept the puck inside the Finnish blue line. He roared along the right-wing boards, carried on behind the net, and stuffed it in the far side before Lehtonen could dive over. Just like that, a Finnish lead that looked impressive and a game that seemed to be controlled by the home side, was now tied at three with one period left.
And for Skinner? Lesson learned.
"We just needed to settle down," Skinner said. "We all believed that there was a lot of time to play. We needed to stop forcing the plays and play more simple."
Canada went ahead for the first time six minutes into the third. The Finns hit the post on the rush one way, but Corey Perry got the rebound and carried the puck up ice, teeing it up in the slot for Evander Kane who snapped a low shot past Lehtonen for a 4-3 lead.
Finland got one last great chance to tie when Perry took his second penalty of the night, at 14:09, but this time the four Canadians were more aggressive and kept the puck out of harm's way.
Finland pulled Lehtonen in the final minute and had a great chance on an Antti Pihlstrom shot from in close, but Ward stacked the pads for his finest save of the night. Jordan Eberle finished the scoring with an empty netter with 24.1 seconds remaining.
"Some of the guys were poking fun at me that it was a Bill Ranford save at the end there," Ward laughed. "It wasn't pretty, but I was fortunate to get over and make the save."
In all, Canada had only one power play to five for Finland, but this was fair testament to Canada's lack of discipline.
Canada plays Kazakhstan tomorrow while the Finns play the United States on Sunday.
Courtesy of the IIHF