February 17, 2010
Marian Gaborik(notes) is in the lineup despite an nagging injury (boy, if we had a nickel ...), playing with Josef Stumpel and Ziggy Palffy. Top line: Pavol Demitra(notes)/Marcel Hossa/Marian Hossa(notes). Chara and Andrej Meszaros(notes) paired together.
For the Czechs, they start an impressive line of Patrik Elias(notes)/Tomas Plekanec/Martin Havlat(notes); keep on eye on an interesting line of Tomas Fleischmann(notes)/David Krejci/Martin Erat(notes). Tomas Vokoun(notes) for the Czechs vs. Client Jaroslav Halak(notes) for the Slovaks in goal.
Finally, Jaromir Jagr(notes) has come back to North America. The former Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers star winger left for KHL millions in Russia two seasons ago, and tonight plays with Roman Cervenka and Petr Cajanek(notes), formerly of the St. Louis Blues and now of the KHL.
This is, on paper, the first real marquee match of the hockey tournament (12 a.m. EST; US TV: CNBC). We'll be offering live thoughts on this game throughout the evening/morning (hi, East Coast). Use the comments as an open thread, and check back here for news and views.
We're getting our first taste of Olympic hockey in this game. The crowd is electric and divided, flags and jerseys everywhere. (The 9 p.m. PST start no doubt helped give some fans a few extra hours to, uh, "prepare" for the game.)
Not to be outdone: Vokoun stoned Palffy on a breakaway, after some killer stickhandling to get free of the Czech'ers. If you're not watching this game, find it. Now.
Czechs 1-0 (9:02, 1st)
It took a really solid tip-in by Elias to beat Halak, but he was beaten. Defenseman Miroslav Blatak (drafted in 2001 by the Detroit Red Wings) lifted a wrister that connected with the top of Elias's stick shaft, and the Czechs have the lead midway through the period. Still back-and-forth action, and Vokoun's been terrific.
(Jump for more.)
Jagr ice time in the first: 4:54. By comparison, Martin Havlat: 6:10.
Slovakia 1-1 (2nd, 0:47)
Marian Hossa feeds from the corner, Gaborik with a sniper shot past Vokoun; nicely done.
Jagr's been a bit ineffective tonight. He was hurting on the bench in the first after a clean hit on the boards. Something to watch.
Zidlicky just missed the go ahead goal with a shot off the top right part of the iron.
Remember the Green Men in Vancouver? That was GM Place. This is Hockey Place for the next couple of weeks -- say hello to Red Men:
Czech 2-1 (17:56, 2nd)
Jagr strikes. He earned a partial breakaway with some strong skating, and then beat Halak five-hole with Andrej Serkera diving to stop the shot. We'd call it vintage ... but if it was vintage, he would have been alone. First goal for Jagr ... how many more is he good for?
Czech 3-1 (0:02, 2nd)
Jagr's now factored in on two goals. With Chara in the box -- after a Czech player flailed like he had been shanked when Zdeno slashed his stick -- a shot from the point went wide. Jagr corralled it, sent a difficult angle shot on goal that Halak saved, but Plekanac scored on the rebound with one hand on the stick for the 3-1 lead. A power-play goal with 2 seconds left ... dagger?
Slovakia's having a lot of trouble in the neutral zone. When they aren't having trouble, Vokoun is confidently deflecting everything in his sight.
Jagr update: He's starting to look vintage, and he's forechecking, too. Placed 9:32 through two periods, which was sixth among forwards.
The Jagr show ended, the Vokoun show started, and the Czechs skated away with a 3-1 victory. They didn't have a shot on goal in the period until about 3 minutes left, and were outshot 12-3 in the third. But Vokoun was confident, the defense didn't break, and this Group of Death battle goes to the Czechs.
Up next for Slovakia: Russia. Oh joy.