By Josh Ferguson
The Czech Republic punished the Latvians in the 5:07, scoring three goals in an eventual 5-2 victory at Canada Hockey Place on Friday night. The win pushes the Czechs into first place in the ‘Group of Death,’ ahead of Russia, Slovakia and Team Latvia.
Boston Bruins youngster David Krejci made it 1-0 when he finished off a perfect rush for the Czechs with a backhand-forehand deke that left Latvian keeper Edgars Masalskis out of position.
Tomas Plekanec and Jaromir Jagr would add the other singles to give the Czechs a commanding 3-0 lead after the first. Latvia was outshot 16-4 in the opening stanza.
Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs may have felt the need to adjust their televisions after Tomas Kaberle took a nice cross-ice pass from Patrik Elias and actually elected to shoot on the power play. Kaberle fired a beauty top corner to extend the lead to four at 6:33 of the second.
Latvia’s penalty woes continued after the Kaberle goal when they took three straight minor penalties; two of which came from Kristaps Sotnieks. It turned out to be a momentum shift in their favor, however, when Herberts Vasiljevs sprung Sotnieks coming out of the sin bin for a breakaway. Sotnieks fired a low shot from the hash marks that fooled Czech goalie Tomas Vokoun and made the score 4-1
With Jagr in the box serving a minor for holding, Martins Karsums fired a snap shot from the half boards that ricocheted off of Girts Ankipans’ knee and past a helpless Vokoun to get the Latvians back in the game.
Despite outscoring the Czechs 2-1 after a disastrous opening five minutes, it was Czech-mate for a Latvian squad that simply took too many penalties to compete with their formidable foe.
Elias added an empty-netter late to solidify a 5-2 win for the Czech Republic.
Vokoun wasn’t tested much in the game and finished with 16 saves on 18 shots, while Masalskis turned aside 34 of the 38 shots he faced at the other end.
The Czech power play got plenty of practice, going 2-for-8 in the game. Latvia went 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
The Czech Republic (2-0-0-0) finish up the round robin in what is sure to be a feisty affair when they meet the Russians on Sunday. Latvia (0-2-0-0) returns to the ice Saturday to battle Slovakia.