A back and forth third period would eventually lead Finland to a 3-2 shootout victory over Belarus, preventing their opponents from grabbing an automatic spot in the quarter-finals.
Heading into the game, one of the biggest stories of the tournament had to be Finland’s incredible shutout streak. After falling 5-1 to the Americans in the first game of the tournament, Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros combined for four straight shutouts, totally 12 periods in total. The streak gave the team the longest ever shutout streak in the history of the tournament, beating a record set over 50 years ago by Sweden.
After setting a team record, Rinne was able to do something even more special It took him 206 minutes and 27 seconds of play, but the Nashville Predators star would become the modern day single tournament shutout leader. He’d finish the first period without a goal against, giving Finland their 13th straight period without allowing a goal. He’d extend it to 231:56 after recording Finland’s 14th straight period without allowing a goal, making ten saves after 40 minutes of play.
While Finland’s goaltending may have taken the biggest headlines, Vitali Koval was silently having a solid game at the other end. Making his first start of the tournament, Koval made 14 saves in the first 30 minutes of the game as the Finns tried to break the ice. Koval was starting instead of usual netminder Kevin LaLande, who, after suffering an injury a few days back, would sit out and rest before, hopefully, getting a chance to play in the quarter-finals.
After five minutes of play in the third period, Belarus did the impossible: they scored on Rinne. Rinne’s shutout streak would finally come to a close after 237:05 of shutout action, with Evgeni Kovyrshin firing a powerful wrist shot over Rinne’s blocker for the 1-0 lead.
A massive glove save by Rinne with about ten minutes to go on Artur Gavrus would change the whole course of the game. With eight minutes to go, Finland would score a huge one as Joonas Donskoi tied it after his shot from in close tipped off Koval and in. A minute later, recent scratch Teemu Hartikainen would give the Finns the lead with time running out on the clock.
Belarus wasn’t willing to let their fate slip away. With the net empty, Alexei Kalyuzhniy used a tremendous screen in front by Andrei Stas to tie the game up with just 31 seconds left, sending the game to overtime.
With the game off to extra time, Belarus had a big task on their hands. They knew that the point would help them in the standings, but an extra point would help clinch an automatic spot in the quarter-finals for the second straight year. Unfortunately for the Belarussians, two goals by the Finns in the shootout meant that a 1/4 berth was not going to be theirs on Monday, with France taking the 3-2 victory.
With the win, Finland is automatically entered into the quarter-finals. Belarus, however, needs to take down Norway to put them up against Canada on Thursday. If they lose, Slovakia can take down the Americans, then the Slovaks will make their many fans in attendance happy by grabbing the spot in the quarter-finals.
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