Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak scored the game-winning goal as Slovakia earned its second victory of the 2019 IIHF World Championship courtesy of a 6-3 victory over France on Friday.
Cernak's goal came at a crucial moment for the host country. Slovakia opened up a 3-0 lead, but France scored twice in a 2:53 span of the second period to cut the deficit to a goal. Just 16 seconds into the final period however, Erik Cernak unleashed a slapshot from between the circles that eluded French goalie Florian Hardy to build Slovakia's lead back to two goals at 4-2. Slovakia would score three times in the first six minutes of the third period to build an insurmountable 6-2 advantage before finishing with the three-goal victory.
Cernak also added an assist, helping to set up Libor Hudacek's power-play goal at 5:31 of the second period that gave Slovakia a 3-0 lead, for his first multi-point game of the tournament.
The host Slovaks ended a three-game losing skid with the win. Slovakia has two more Group A round-robin games to play -- Saturday, May 18 versus Great Britain and Tuesday, May 21 against Denmark - and will likely need to win both to advance to the quarterfinal round.
Cernak has tallied three goals, including two game-winners and one on the power play, to go along with two assists in five tournament games. Cernak has recorded at least one point in four of Slovakia's five contests.
In Group B action, Ondrej Palat and Jan Rutta helped the Czech Republic blow past Italy 8-0 for its fourth win in five tournament contests.
Rutta was on the ice for two of the Czech Republic's eight goals for a plus-two rating in 14:31 of ice time. Palat skated 13:10 and took two shots.
The Czech Republic has two more games -- Sunday, May 19 against Austria and Tuesday, May 21 versus Switzerland - and, currently in a tie for third place in the Group B standings, is in good position to advance to the knockout stage.