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Elias, Czechs fend off Latvia

Devs' forward gets goal and an assist in 5-2 victory

Friday, 02.19.2010 / 10:17 PM ET / News
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Elias, Czechs fend off Latvia
VANCOUVER - First, the Czech Republic dangled and danced its way to a 4-0 lead. Then, obviously a bit too pleased with its own stylistic prowess and a bit dismissive of the resolve of their opponents, the Czechs danced and dangled with no apparent purpose, allowing crowd-favorite Latvia to climb back into the game.

But in the end, with the chance to win Group B in its sights and enough important players remaining focused, the Czechs hung on to defeat Latvia 5-2 on Friday afternoon at Canada Hockey Place.

The victory, built on the second straight strong games played by venerable forward Jaromir Jagr and stalwart goaltender Tomas Vokoun, sent the Czechs into Sunday's showdown with Russia knowing that anything short of a regulation loss will give it the Group B title and an automatic berth into Wednesday's quarterfinals.

While the Czechs' top line of Patrik Elias, Tomas Plekanec and Martin Havlat has yet to really explode in two Olympic games, Jagr has gotten better and better with each period. The line of underrated NHLers Tomas Fleischmann, Martin Erat and David Krejci also provided shift after shift of high energy and threatening scoring chances.

It was that line, in fact, that strung together three pretty passes that ended with Krejci's first goal of this tournament, 2:30 into the game. That catalyzed a three-goals-in-2:37 blitz that enabled the Czechs to open up a quick 3-0 lead.

Plekanec scored his second goal of the Olympics by redirecting a Marek Zidlicky shot past Latvian goaltender Edgars Masalskis, who was swimming all over his crease in the early going. Then Jagr scored his second in two games by going back to a since-discarded move that was a staple of his brilliant, franchise-record-setting first season as a New York Ranger (2005-06): He leaned into a slap shot from the left half-boards on a power play and simply powered it past Masalskis.

However, having burst so quickly and easily into the lead, the Czechs took their foot off the gas pedal - or, to be more accurate, they stopped driving straight down the road and began weaving all over the place.

Beautiful passing plays that went nowhere were the result. And since they were allowed to hang around, the Latvians - with much of the crowd chanting "Lat-Vi-A!" - decided to climb back into it.

A goal by Czech defenseman Tomas Kaberle made it 4-0 early in the second period before the comeback began. But then the Latvians got goals from Kristaps Sotnieks and Girts Ankipans within the final 4:30 of the second to cut it to 4-2.

As they had in their Olympic opener vs. Slovakia, the Czechs were able to make a two-goal lead stand up throughout an entire third period before Patrik Elias hit the empty net with 17.4 seconds left. They therefore get a day off atop Group B before taking on the Russians.

-- John Dellapina

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
5 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 69 16 24 -3 40
M. Cammalleri 62 25 13 3 38
P. Elias 63 11 21 -16 32
S. Gomez 52 7 24 -7 31
S. Bernier 61 13 14 3 27
T. Zajac 68 11 12 -4 23
A. Larsson 58 3 19 3 22
A. Greene 76 3 18 3 21
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
E. Gelinas 56 6 11 -3 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 26 28 8 .928 2.19
K. Kinkaid 5 5 3 .918 2.47