By Glenn Odebralski for floridapanthers.com
Looking for a much needed victory over Latvia after falling to Switzerland 3-2 on Saturday, the Czech Republic did just that shutting Latvia down for a 3-1 victory Monday in Mannheim in the only game with Panthers playing.
Tomas Vokoun, making his fourth start of the tournament, earned his third victory in stopping 25 of 26 Latvian shots.
The Czechs now need at least one more point (against Canada on Tuesday) in order to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals. Otherwise their tournament will be done.
"It was life and death tonight, and it will be again tomorrow," said Vokoun to iihf.com. "We’ve put ourselves in a bad position and now we win or go home."
The teams battled through a scoreless first period despite the Czechs throwing 16 shots on Edgars Masalskis as they outshot Latvia 16-2.
The Czechs finally found a way to beat Masalskis 2:21 into the second as captain Tomas Rolinek went in on an odd-man rush and beat the netminder for the shorthanded goal.
Rolinek would stake the Czech Republic to a 2-0 lead with 2:09 left with his second short handed goal of the game. This time he rifled a shot over Masalskis' glove on another rush.
Latvia would draw blood with 7:55 left in the game and cut the lead to 2-1 as Sergejs Pecura beat Vokoun with a high wrist shot.
But the Czechs found an answer. Quickly in fact. Roman Cervenka regained the two goal lead just 46 seconds later to secure the 3-1 final.
Masalskis was strong in the defeat for the Latvians, stopping 29 shots with many of them being of high quality.