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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 / 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 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 82 24 43 16 67
P. Elias 65 18 35 -4 53
T. Zajac 80 18 30 3 48
A. Henrique 77 25 18 3 43
M. Zidlicky 81 12 30 -3 42
M. Ryder 82 18 16 -6 34
A. Greene 82 8 24 3 32
E. Gelinas 60 7 22 -3 29
D. Zubrus 82 13 13 1 26
R. Clowe 43 7 19 -10 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 16 15 12 .921 1.97
M. Brodeur 19 14 6 .901 2.51

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