As the Olympic tournament’s final qualification games concluded Tuesday, two of the Red Wings’ first-time Olympians saw their experience in Sochi come to an end.
Forwards Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco will leave the 2014 Winter Games without a single victory, as Slovakia lost to the USA, Slovenia and Russia in the preliminary tournament, and the Czech Republic in the playoff qualification round Tuesday.
"We had a really rough game against the US and that put us down a bit mentally, the confidence wasn't there,” Slovakia defenseman Zdeno Chara told IIHF’s Andy Potts. “But we bounced back against Russia in probably our best game of the tournament.
"We thought we would follow that up tonight but we didn't really do it. It's obviously disappointing."
Slovakia struggled to find the back of the net in the group phase of the tournament, scoring only two goals in its three matchups. The two young Wings players accounted for both of those goals, as Tatar scored in a 7-1 loss to the USA, and Jurco scored in Slovakia’s 3-1 loss to Slovenia. Tatar also recorded one assist in the team’s 5-3 loss to the Czech Republic.
The Czechs took complete control of the first period in the qualification game against Slovakia, scoring three goals within the first 20 minutes. Two goals from Ales Hemsky and Roman Cervenka 30 seconds apart gave the Czech Republic a 2-0 lead midway through the period, and David Krejci added a power play goal ten minutes later to give the team a three-goal lead.
The Czechs held a 4-0 advantage with just five minutes remaining in the second period when Cervenka scored his second goal of the game, but no lead is safe in a critical single-elimination game.
Ignited by two scores from Chicago’s Marian Hossa, Slovakia scored the next three goals to cut the Czech Republic’s lead to just one. Hossa scored Team Slovakia’s first goal of the game with one minute left in the second period, giving his country the momentum it needed heading into the third.
Hossa struck again seven minutes into the final period to cut the Czechs’ lead in half, and Tomas Surovy scored just over one minute later to make it a one-goal game.
That was as close as Slovakia would get, though, as the deficit was too much to overcome. An empty net power play goal from Tomas Plekanec with 38 seconds left in the game sealed the 5-3 victory in favor of the Czech Republic.
"We were waiting for a chance on the power play," Tatar said. "I thought that would be how we could tie the game, but we didn't get anything."
With the victory, the Czechs will face the USA in a quarterfinal matchup Wednesday at noon. The No. 2 seed Americans won Group A with victories over Slovakia, Russia and Slovenia to earn a berth to the quarterfinals.
"We have to make sure to play defense well," Czech Republic forward Jakub Voracek said. "They have great line-up and they can score on you from any line."
In the remaining quarterfinal matchups of the Olympic tournament, Buffalo’s interim head coach Ted Nolan will lead Latvia against his native Canada, Russia will face Finland, and Sweden will take on Slovenia.
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