Finland’s incredible shutout streak continued today, as a 22 save shutout by tournament rookie Juuse Saros helped lead Finland to a 3-0 victory.
As expected, the Finns began to pester the Slovaks early. With the chance that potentially just one of these two would end up making the quarter-finals, Finland worked hard early on to secure the first goal. Jan Laco seems to enjoy having more action, as his play in the first period indicated that he wasn’t ready to back down.
At the other end, Juuse Saros was making his men’s World Championship debut for Finland. The Nashville Predators prospect is best known for putting up an incredible run to help Finland with the 2014 World Juniors, a year after just survivor relegation. It almost appeared as though Saros had allowed the first goal after the Slovaks got the puck behind him. However, it was easily called off due to Libor Hudáček tipping the puck over the crossbar, using some incredible hand-eye for a play that would just go to waste.
The Finns found themselves to be very lucky early in the second. Antti Pihlström was given a penalty for high sticking, but on the delayed call, Saros left the Finnish net assuming it was to Slovakia. Both teams had touched the puck, so nobody was really too sure as to who was the one getting the call. Slovakia had finally gotten a bit of momentum, so Finland was lucky they weren’t caught sleeping on the job.
Saros would have a chance to redeem himself with about five minutes off the clock in the second. On the same penalty that almost fooled Saros, Mário Bližňák found himself on a shorthanded breakaway opportunity for the Slovaks. Saros, a young, yet smart netminder, made sure to force Bližňák out of position, leaving the Slovakian forward to just shoot at his pad at the side of the net. It was one of just two shots for the Slovaks in the second, who really struggled in both the penalty department and the offensive zone.
Another scoreless period meant that the Finns had set a record in that department. After allowing five goals in the opening game against the Americans, the team had played to 11 straight shutout periods, the most of any team in the history of the tournament. Pekka Rinne played in nine of them, but after feeling under the weather today, Saros came in and took over fairly nicely. After two periods of play, the record sat at 231:56, topping the record of 209:02 set by Sweden back in 1957. By the end of the day, Saros would finish the day with the shutout, meaning that 12th straight period
With ten minutes left in the game, Finland would finally get one on the board. In somewhat of a controversial play, depending on what side you cheer for, Joonas Donskoi gave Finland the lead after tipping a shot from the point past his blocker. Laco believed the goal came as a result of a high stick, but after further review, it was clear that it was a good goal.
Finland would score two goals later in the game. First, some incredible work by Janne Pesonen along the boards helped feed Juhamatti Aaltonen right in front of the Slovak net, scoring the second goal to put Slovakia’s chances to sleep. Leo Komarov would score with seven seconds left in the match, finishing off the game for Finland with the 3-0 win.
With the win, Finland’s chances look very good for the quarter-finals. They are now in a three-way tie for first in Group B with USA & Russia. Slovakia will need a bit of work to move on, as their seven points trail Belarus by three for the fourth and final spot in the next round.
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