Helsinki, Finland – Slovakia scored twice in the final seven minutes of the third period to come from behind and defeat Canada 4-3 in the quarterfinal round at the 2012 World Hockey Championship, eliminating Canada from the tournament.
The Slovaks got off to a fast and furious start at Hartwall Arena, catching the Canadians on their heels with a pair of early goals. But Evander Kane, Jeff Skinner and Alex Burrows tallied three straight to give Canada a 3-2 cushion heading into the final frame, setting up the disastrous final minutes.
Milan Bartovic scored the equalizer for Slovakia with 6:35 to go in the third period, firing his own rebound past Canada goalie Cam Ward. And Michal Handzus was the hero for the underdog squad, tipping in an Andrej Sekera point shot with 2:28 remaining, as Canada's Ryan Getzlaf served a five-minute kneeing major.
Slovakia now advances to play either Sweden or the Czech Republic in the semifinal round, while the Canadians must settle for a top-eight finish. It was bad timing for Canada's first regulation loss, as they finished with a 6-1-1 overall record.
"Obviously, this is disappointing and not what we wanted to happen," Team Canada's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said following the quarterfinal loss. "They came on strong at the end and capitalized on their opportunities. We're disappointed. We came here to win gold, and that's not going to happen now."
"Congrats to Slovakia, they played a very good hockey game here today," added Canada's Head Coach Brent Sutter. "We knew coming in that it was going to be a tight, hard-fought game. We were up 3-2 with seven minutes to go in the game … you've got to close the deal."
Branko Radivojevic fired a shot on net from just inside the blue line and Tomas Kopecky deflected it past Ward to make it 1-0 Slovakia with 14:03 to go in the opening frame. Former Oilers forward Miroslav Satan then made it 2-0 with 10:46 on the clock, smacking in a loose puck from the high slot.
Canada was able to regroup and cut the deficit in half before the end of the first period, as Getzlaf muscled his way to the net and Kane converted the loose puck past Slovakia goalie Jan Laco to make it 2-1 with 3:46 remaining.
Canada kept the momentum going in the middle frame, scoring twice more to take a 3-2 lead. After Oilers all-star Jordan Eberle was denied on a breakaway, Skinner converted the rebound with 13:30 to go in the period. Burrows then scored the go-ahead goal with 2:17 to go, also converting on a rebound.
Eberle and Oilers teammate Nugent-Hopkins each had a glorious scoring chance in the middle frame, as Eberle fired a one-timer off Laco's mask on the power play and Nugent-Hopkins put a one-timer from the doorstep off the post.
Eberle finished the tournament with four goals, four assists and a +4 rating, while RNH scored four goals and two assists and was +2. Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk backed up Ward in the quarterfinal match and finished the tournament with two wins in two games, surrendering just two goals on 45 shots.
USA vs. FINLAND
Helsinki, Finland – Not unlike their neighbours to the north losing in the final minutes to Slovakia earlier on Thursday at Hartwall Arena, the United States suffered a heartbreaking defeat in their quarterfinal match at the World Hockey Championship.
The host nation Finland scored with just eight seconds remaining in the third period to post a 3-2 victory and advance to the semifinals, sending the Americans home. Jesse Joensuu was the hero for Finland, scoring two goals including the game-winner in the dying seconds of regulation.
After a scoreless first period, Joensuu got Finland on the board with 6:33 to go in the middle frame, but a magnificent feed from Oilers and Team USA defenceman Jeff Petry drew the Americans even just 21 seconds later. Petry found Kyle Palmieri on the doorstep to make it 1-1 after 40 minutes.
Bobby Ryan gave the United States their only lead of the game 99 seconds into the third period, but Finland was able to rally for two unanswered goals to capture the playoff victory. Captain Mikko Koivu tallied the equalizer with 6:58 to go, and Joensuu sent the home crowd into a frenzy with his game winner, converting on Petri Kontiola's behind-the-net pass.
"We didn't play the game we wanted to," Petry said following the loss. "We turned the puck over too much and that was what they wanted with their transitional game."
Jimmy Howard made 28 saves between the USA pipes, while Petri Vehanen turned aside 24 of 26 shots to pick up the win for Finland.
Petry's second period assist upped his tournament point total to five (two goals, three assists) in eight games. The Oiler was second in ice time for the Americans in the quarterfinal match, logging 18:04.
CZECH REPUBLIC vs. SWEDEN
Stockholm, Sweden – Winger Ales Hemsky is now the lone Oilers player left competing for the World Hockey Championship, as the Czech Republic beat Sweden 4-3 in Thursday's quarterfinal round, following losses by both Canada and the United States.
Hemsky posted a +1 rating as the Czechs squeaked out the one-goal victory over the Swedes, with Milan Michalek scoring the game-winner with just 29 seconds left in the third period. Hemsky and the Czechs now play rival Slovakia in one of Saturday's semifinals, with Russia and Finland competing in the other.
Loui Eriksson gave Sweden an early first period lead, but the Czechs replied with a pair to take a 2-1 cushion into the middle frame, as Hemsky's linemate 40-year-old Petr Nedved tallied the equalizer and Jiri Novotny got the go-ahead goal.
Martin Erat put the Czechs up by two midway through the second period, but Henrik Zetterberg worked his magic to make it 3-2 with a strong individual effort to beat goalie Jakub Kovar. Jonathan Ericsson then tied it up for the Swedes just 45 seconds into third before Michalek notched the game-winner in the final minute.
Through eight games at the tournament, Hemsky has scored five goals and chipped in with an assist and a +3 rating. He logged 17:33 of ice time during Thursday's quarterfinal.
-- Ryan Frankson, edmontonoilers.com - with files from Tom Gazzola & Nyki Scheuerman on location in Helsinki