SOCHI, Russia – The Slovaks were dead in their game against the Czechs on Tuesday, trailing 4-0 in the second period. And then they became The Walking Dead, rising from the grave and giving the Czech Republic a scare in their Sochi Olympic qualification round battle.
But in the end the Czechs held on, 5-3, to advance and play the U.S. in the Olympic quarterfinals on Wednesday.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted in the third. We scored some power-play goals in the first and then we stopped playing. It can’t happen anymore. One loss and you go home,” said goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
The Czechs were in control of the game from early in the first period. Their moribund power play – 1-for-12 entering the game – produced the game’s opening goal, as Ales Hemsky tallied at 6:53.
Roman Cervenka made it 2-0 just 29 seconds later, with Jaromir Jagr getting the helper. David Krejci scored on the power play at 17:03 of the first with a blast from the left side. It was 4-0 in the second when Cervenka had a leg-kicking breakaway goal off a brutal Andrej Sekera turnover.
But then the Slovaks roared back. Marian Hossa scored at the end of the second period, and then followed with another goal at 7:20 of the third period. Tomas Surovy fired home a shot from the slot, unguarded, to make it a 4-3 nailbiter.
"That goal at the end of the second ... that can't happen." said Pavelec.
Slovakia’s late hopes were dashed when defenseman Andrej Meszaros slashed and broke the stick of Martin Hanzal on a breakaway with just 53 seconds left. Tomas Plekanec scored an empty netter 14 seconds later on the power play to ice it.
Slovakia finishes 0-3-1 on the tournament.
"Our tournament wasn’t good," said Slovakia's Michal Handzus. "Maybe we played one good game. Other than that we had some flashes but we didn’t’ play 60 minutes. In a tournament like this, every mistake they pay you back. 3-0 after first is tough to come back against that team We came close but it was too little too late.
The Czechs are now 2-2-0, and ready to play the USA in the quarters.
"I think they're the best team in the tournament," said forward Jakub Voracek. "But if you look at all the games, they're tight so far. Every team can beat every team."