Tyler Ennis and Team Canada defeated the Czech Republic 2-0 to advance to the gold-medal game for the first time since 2009.
The pace and intensity level for the first five minutes of the game was off the charts. The Czechs pressed hard and the Canadians didn’t back down as the teams traded chances.
First, it was Roman Cervenka with a breakaway opportunity, but fired wide. Then, it was Taylor Hall with a wrister from the circle that hit the crossbar, followed by a wide open net for Martin Zatovic after Canada goaltender Mike Smith's clearing attempt from behind the net turned into a pass right to the Czech forward along the boards.
Then, Sidney Crosby wired a pass from the back of the neutral zone to Jordan Eberle streaking through center ice on a partial breakaway. He saw Taylor Hall right on his heels and threw a cross crease pass to him right at the very last second to make Ondrej Pavelec move post-to-post, but he didn't move fast enough as Hall had a wide open net to score the game's first goal at 8:40 of the first period.
"It was tough," Ennis said. "They came at us hard to start and Smitty played really well for us and made some really good saves to keep us in it. They outplayed us those first five minutes. That first goal was huge for us to get."
The Czechs kept pressing, but the Canadians defensive effort smothered every opportunity as soon as they crossed the blue line. In the final minute of play, it was almost 2-0 as Ennis wrapped around the back of the net and passed the puck to Cody Eakin in the slot, but it hit the post. Canada led 1-0 after an intense 20 minutes of play in which the shots favored Canada 19-10.
Early in the second period, Crosby missed a wide-open net on a back door play with the man advantage. Shortly after the power play expired, Brent Burns' shot from the point was deflected and Canada hit its third crossbar of the game.
Midway through the period, Mike Smith made a great save against Jakub Krejcik and on the very next play, Dan Hamhuis banked the puck off the boards to find Jason Spezza cursing down the wing. He fired shot through the defender's legs and beat Pavelec five-hole to give Canada a 2-0 lead.
As Czech Republic struggled to even get across the blue line, the majority of fans at the sold out O2 Arena in Prague were still jumping, chanting, whistling and cheering for the home team, especially when Voracek had a great opportunity a few minutes later and even more so when Michal Jordan appeared to score. But that goal was disallowed for a crease violation by Petr Koukal.
"We came here to win gold. Everyone's determined. Everyone's excited," Ennis said.
In the second semifinal game, Russia defeated the U.S. 4-0 and will move on to face Canada.
Both teams had chances early on, but both goaltenders - Sergei Bobrovsky and Connor Hellebuyck - came up with huge saves and set the tone for the game.
First, it was Yevgeni Dadonov, Russia's leading scorer, with a great shot in the slot, but Hellebuyck snagged it right out of the air. Then, Jimmy Vesey had a great chance on the doorstop that was stopped by Bobrovsky.
Midway through the opening period, they'd again trade chances as Artemi Panarin fired a shot from the corner that deflected wide followed by another great chance for Vesey in the slot on the very next shift. Late in the period, Hellebuyck made a huge save with the toe of his pad on a shot by Malkin in the crease with just over a minute left to keep the game scoreless.
In the second period, Anders Lee and Charlie Coyle cycled the puck well and had a couple good opportunities, but Bobrovsky was there every time. Later on, Vladimir Tarasenko had two great opportunities. Then, it was Ilya Kovalchuk with a good look, followed by Evgeni Malkin, but Hellebuyck was there with big save after big save after big save.
With seven minutes left in the second, Jack Eichel shot from the circles, Lee scooped up the rebound with Bobrovsky sprawled out on the ice giving him a wide open net, but he fired high. Soon after, Dylan Larkin had a great look that went high as well and this game was still scoreless after 40 minutes of play.
"I felt really good out there…like this may have been my strongest game of the tournament," Vesey said. "I kept getting chances and it was 0-0 so I was hoping one of them would fall. Unfortunately, that didn't happen for me."
The goalie dual continued until Larkin fired a bomb from the blue line that Bobrovsky got just enough of to redirect it to the corner where it careened up the ice and right to Sergei Mozyakin's stick. He carried it up ice, through the neutral zone and let a wrister go that beat Hellebuyck to give Russia the 1-0 lead with 12:43 left in regulation.
Three minutes later, defenseman Justin Faulk lost an edge on the blueline, Ovechkin swooped into the offensive zone uncontested and beat Hellebuyck five-hole with 9:41 left in regulation.
With the clock winding down and Team USA applying the pressure, Vadim Shipachyov pounced on a loose puck in the slot and Russia extends their lead to 3-0 with 4:32 left in regulation. Twenty seconds later, Hellebuyck goes off for the extra attacker as USA goes all in, but it didn't workout quite like they had wanted. With 1:25 left in the game, Ovechkin fakes out Torey Krug and goes 2-on-0 with Malkin against an empty net. 4-0 Russia.
Bobrovsky made 35 saves to earn the shutout. The gold-medal game will air live on NBCSN at 2:45 p.m. ET
"I've seen Bobrovsky do that a number of times," said Richards. "He's a great goaltender and he can win games on his own."
Team USA will play the Czech Republic for bronze Sunday at 10 a.m. ET. It will be streamed live on NBCSports LiveExtra.
"We have a quick turnaround, but this next game is just as big for us," said Vesey. "Our goal was to get a medal at the end of this and that's still on the table. It won't be gold, but we don't want to go away empty handed."