A packed house of passionate Czechs and Jaromir Jagr look-a-likes was enough to lift Team Czech Republic above the strong Finnish opposition in a 5-3 win, as the Czechs clinched a berth into the 2015 IIHF World Championship semi-finals.
The Czech Republic third line gave them the lead midway through the 1st period, as Jan Kovar one timed a quick pass from the corner by Martin Erat past an unsuspecting Pekka Rinne. It was the Czech Republic’s first goal against Finland at the World Championships since 2011, when who else but Jaromir Jagr gave the Czechs a 2-1 win over Finland in the round robin stage.
Despite Czech dominance throughout the first period, Finland responded late, with their third shot on goal making it past goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. The goal was scored by Tuomo Ruutu after a turnover in their defensive zone led to a slap shot from the blue line by Petri Kontiola, giving Ruutu the perfect rebound and an empt net to shoot on.
A goaltending mistake in the early of the 2nd period allowed the Finns to break through to a 2-1 lead, as a terrible rebound allowed by Ondrej Pavelec was followed by the puck trickling through his legs on a Jussi Jokinen shot. Despite relying on goaltender Alexander Salak in the past, the Czechs did not pull Pavelec after two bad goals on seven shots.
However, with just over 6 minutes left in the 2nd, Jaromir Jagr gave the fans what they had been begging for all game, tying it up at 2-2 with a goal for himself, assisted by Kovar and Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek. Nearly a minute after Jagr’s goal, the Finns appeared to score take a 3-2 lead, but the goal was waived off as goaltending interference. Video review showed Finnish forward Petri Kontiola pushing Czech defenseman Michal Jordan into Ondrej Pavelec as the goal was scored, and the game remained a 2-2 tie.
The fun didn’t end there, though, as Jan Kovar, who was already having a great game, put home a goal on the powerplay to give the home team Czech Republic a 3-2 lead with four minutes remaining in the second frame. What seemed like it could have been a goaltending battle between Pavelec and Pekka Rinne had become an incredibly exciting back-and-forth game through forty minutes, with only one goal between the teams leading into the third period.
Early in the third period, Aleksander Barkov scored and Jussi Jokinen assisted on a beautiful give-and-go to tie the game 3-3. Barkov fed the puck to Jokinen behind the net before rushing the net, where he received a return pass and put it top left over Pavelec’s left shoulder.
Now, if there was ever a question in your mind that Jaromir Jagr is not one of the greatest sports heroes in Czech history, he’s here to show you why he is. With four-and-a-half minutes left in the 3rd period, he steals the puck off of a Finnish defenseman before performing a wrap around and slipping the puck short side past goaltender Pekka Rinne. Coming out of ‘international hockey retirement’ to play this tournament, it’s hard to believe where the Czech team would be without their 43-year-old all star Jagr working his never-aging magic against opposing goaltenders.
That would be all it take for Czech Republic to knock the Finns out, as they added a Vladimir Sobotka goal on an empty netter to clinch the 5-3 victory. In spite of a poor performance by Ondrej Pavelec , the Czechs held on as Jagr’s two goals and Kovar’s three points were enough to guide them to a semi-final berth against the dominant Canadian squad.