Goals by Canadian scoring stars Taylor Hall and Jason Spezza allowed Canada to take the 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic, earning a spot in the gold medal game for the first time since 2009.
The hosts had some incredible scoring chances right off the bat. First, Jaromir Jagr, the most popular player at the tournament, made a 100ft pass to Roman Cervenka, whose breakaway went to waste after Jake Muzzin scared him into shooting over in the corner.
At the two minute mark, Martin Erat almost scored the biggest of the year for him when he tipped a point shot from the blue line, only to have Mike Smith stop it with his right pad before kicking it away.
After Taylor Hall was unable to get one into the back of the net after five minutes of play after wiring it off the crossbar, the Canadians found themselves in the lead at the half-way point. The Canadians did a good job of exploiting the weak Czech defense by having Sidney Crosby make a huge pass from the neutral zone to Jordan Eberle, who got it right over to Hall in the slot for the 1-0 goal on an empty cage.
The Czechs had another great scoring chance with about six minutes left in the period. Multiple Czech players touched the puck in a mad scramble behind Smith, but defenseman Brent Burns used his giant body to lay down and make a few stops, keeping his team in the lead. The Canadians answered back with their own great scoring chance, with Cody Eakin hitting the crossbar in the final few seconds of the first, only to find out that his shot wouldn’t result in a goal.
Smith and Ondrej Pavelec may be two of the most scrutinized NHL goaltenders due to their inconsistency, but if there was a story in the early stages of the game, it truly had to be how well they were playing. Whether it be Crosby, Hall or Ryan O’Reilly getting chances on the power-play or Jagr, Cervenka and Plekanec getting in-tight chances on Smith, the goaltending was nothing short of spectacular in the game.
After what can only be described as pure dominance, Canada would make it 2-0 after taking the 9-3 shot advantage in the second. After Dan Hamius got the puck up along the boards, Jason Spezza grabbed the pass along the Czech blueline before getting the wrist shot between the legs of both Jakub Krejčík and Pavelec before finding the back of the net. For Spezza, it was his tournament-leading 14th point of the event, continuing his effort as one of the best forwards at the World’s.
With just over a minute left, the Czechs finally were able to beat Smith. Or did they? The Czechs thought they scored late when the puck did in fact hit the back of the net, but the play was blown dead after it was determined that Petr Koukal was in the crease, earning him a crease violation on the play. The call definetly infuriated the Czechs, but in the end it was the right call, allowing Canada to take the 2-0 lead heading into the third period.
The Czechs were hungry for at least one goal to set things off. Surprisingly, the third period, which saw a ton of great action, had just five combined shots in the first ten minutes, with the Czechs holding the 3-2 advantage. Their best chance of the game came with just three minutes left when Červenka broke past two Canadian defenders to go in all alone. Unfortunately for him, Burns was right there to make the incredible diving save, knocking the puck into the corner before it could get to Smith. Their inability to generate anything after that resulted in a 2-0 loss, giving Canada the 2-0 victory to advance to the finals.
With the win, Canada will face the victor of the USA/Russia game that is set for later today on Saturday afternoon. The loser will take on the Czechs, who’ll look for the bronze medal tomorrow at 10:15am EST. For the Czechs, it will be their first chance since 2012 to earn a medal, while Canada will look to grab their first gold since 2007.
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