Niklas Hagman took advantage of an equipment malfunction to score the game-winner and Mikka Kiprusoff made 31 saves for the shutout as Finland defeated the Czech Republic 2-0 in quarter-final action at the Vancouver Olympic Games.
Finland will now face the United States in the semifinals for a chance to make it back to the final round after losing the gold medal to Sweden in the 2006 Olympic Games.
Hoping to break a 0-0 tie late in the third period, Finland finally made good on their sixth power play of the game when Hagman tipped in a Janne Niskala point shot at 13:34. The Finns have Pavel Kubina’s helmet to thank for the goal.
While battling for the puck behind the goal-line, the Czech defenseman’s chin strap broke and his helmet flew off his head and behind the net. In Olympic rules, when a player loses his helmet he must either retrieve it or skate off the ice; he cannot continue to play.
Kubina opted to retrieve the helmet, allowing Hagman to easily establish body position in front of Czech goaltender Tomas Vokoun to deflect Niskala’s point shot.
Valtteri Filppula added an empty netter at 18:25 to put the game away.
It was a duel of goaltenders in this quarter-final match as Vokoun and Kiprusoff traded one spectacular save after another all game long.
Vokoun owned the opening twenty minutes, bailing out his team in an undisciplined first period for the Czechs. Finland went 0-for-5 in the opening frame, including a two-man advantage for 40 seconds, thanks to the heroics of Vokoun and his shot blocking teammates. Despite being shorthanded for much of the opening frame, the Czechs had just one shot less than Finland.
As the game went along, both teams played with more urgency, skating at faster speeds and taking more risks offensively.
The Czech’s best chance came on the powerplay in the second period. After Kiprusoff made several saves in tight, the puck found its way on Tomas Fleischmann’s stick. The Czech forward had open ice and an empty net to shoot at as the Finnish goaltender was down and out after making the initial save, but rather than quickly flip the puck into the net, Fleischamnn hesitated by the slightest of margins.
Kiprusoff made the most of the delay as he made a desperation swipe with his stick that Fleischamnn didn’t see coming. The goaltender managed to knock the puck away just as Fleischmann was about to shoot for what looked like the easiest of goals.