Two days after opening the 2012 IIHF World Hockey Championship with a 1-0 win over Belarus, Finland is showing the same stout defense that led it to the gold medal last year.
Despite not having a single NHL player on their blue line, the tourney co-hosts earned their second straight shutout of the tournament. With head coach Jukka Jalonen deciding to rest starting keeper Kari Lehtonen, Petri Vehanen stopped all 26 shots he faced and Janne Pesonen scored the game's only goal to give the Finns an impressive start to their defense of the world title in a 1-0 win against Slovakia Sunday.
Considering most of the players from last year's championship roster returned this year to play in front of their home crowd, it shouldn't be terribly surprising that defense is again leading the way for Finland. Last year's team allowed a miniscule 14 goals in nine games with Vehanen posting a tournament-best .954 save percentage.
Both Vehanen and Slovakian goaltender Jan Laco were kept busy early in a first period that saw the teams combine for 21 shots. But Finland gradually slowed the game down in the second, before allowing Slovakia only three shots in the third.
Slovakia resumes the tournament Monday against the Americans while Finland will host Switzerland the day after.
Russia 4, Norway 2
Evgeni Malkin contributed two assists after recording three points in the tournament opener against Latvia to lead Russia to a 4-2 win over Norway.
Norway survived a scoreless first period in which the Russians outshot them 14-5, but Pavel Datsyuk opened the scoring for Russia 1:21 into the second, just 13 seconds after Mads Hansen was sent off for tripping. Denis Denisov doubled the lead six minutes later and Russia never looked back in outshooting Norway 46-21 for the game.
France 6, Kazakhstan 3
Kevin Hecquefeuille scored two of France's three power-play goals as France cruised to its first win of the 2012 World Championship with a 6-3 victory over Kazakhstan.
Following a humbling 7-2 loss to the United States in the tournament opener, France raced out to a 3-0 first-period lead with Hecquefeuille, a veteran of France's Ligue Magnus currently playing in the Swiss National League A, opening the scoring. French captain Laurent Meunier also contributed three assists while Julien Desrosiers provided a goal and two assists.
Italy 4, Denmark 3 (OT)
Giulio Scandella's goal 52 seconds into overtime gave Italy their first win over Denmark in four World Championship meetings.
Two goals in 18 seconds gave Italy a quick 2-0 lead before Lars Eller got the Danes on the board 14 seconds into the second frame. Jesper Jensen scored two goals to give Denmark the lead before Matt de Marchi tied things up with his second of the game.
After a scoreless third, Scandella, the Montreal-born veteran of the Italian league and older brother of the Minnesota Wild's Marco Scandella, got the winner to give Italy its first victory of the tournament.
Switzerland 3, Belarus 2
Kevin Romy scored the winner in the third just 32 seconds after the Swiss successfully killed off the second of two quick Luca Sbisa penalties and Simon Moser scored twice in the first to lead Switzerland to a 3-2 win over Belarus in a back-and-forth affair.
Despite an astonishing 19-1 shot advantage in the first period, Switzerland only led 2-1 after 20 minutes. But the game ultimately came down to Swiss keeper Tobias Stephan, who stopped Mikhail Grabovski on a penalty shot with 4:36 to play and the Swiss up 3-2.
Latvia 3, Germany 2
Alksejs Sirokovs' power-play goal proved to be the winner as Latvia won their first game of the tournament 3-2 over Germany.
Both teams came out flying, combining for 27 shots in the first period, with Mikelis Redlihs scoring the lone goal of the period to put Latvia up 1-0. The shot total was lighter in the second, but the game was just as exciting in the middle frame with the two teams combining for three goals in just under nine minutes. Goaltender Edgars Masalskis helped the Latvians hold on for the win, making 35 saves, including 14 in the third.