Finland 5, Czech Republic 4
New York (The Draft Analyst) — Jesse Puljujarvi scored two goals and Patrik Laine scored a tie-breaking power play goal with 5:57 left in the third period as host Finland defeated the Czech Republic, 5-4, at the world junior hockey championship in Helsinki.
With Czech left wing Simon Stransky off for a high sticking penalty, Laine, Finland’s sharpshooting right wing considered to be one of the top picks for the 2016 NHL draft, fired a blistering wrist shot from the high slot over goalie Vítek Vaněček’s outstretched glove with 5:47 left. Laine is tied for third in the tournament with four goals and eight points.
The back-and-forth affair saw the Czech Republic (2-1-1) and Finland (3-1) combine for five goals in the second periods following a scoreless first. Puljujarvi, also one of the top draft-eligible prospects, opened the scoring 57 seconds into the second period when he took a feed from Sebastian Aho and beat Vaněček low to the glove side. Puljujarvi has recorded at least two points in each of his four games. His 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) leads the tournament through the preliminary round.
The Czechs responded with two goals in a 1:46 span, beginning with Jiri Smejkal firing a shot over goalie Veini Vehvilainen’s glove at 2:22. Jan Ordos made it 2-1 at 6:08 when he was left alone at the side of the net for a tap in.
The Finns answered back with two goals of their own, as Roope Hintz, a Dallas Stars prospect, converted a defensive-zone turnover by Tomas Soustal to tie the score 2-2 at the 8:06 mark of the second, and center Antti Kalapudas one-timed a power play goal just past the midway point of the frame which gave Finland a 3-2 lead.
Czech defenseman David Sklenicka completed a nice rush up the ice with a hard shot past Vehvilainen with just 33 seconds left, tying the score 3-3 heading into the third period. Michael Spacek gave the Czechs a 4-3 lead at 8:37 of the third, but Puljujarvi responded to tie the score with a power play goal less than two minutes later.
Aho and defenseman Olli Juolevi each finished with two assists for Finland, which clinched second place in Group B and will face Canada in the quarterfinal on Saturday. Juolevi leads all defenseman in scoring with six assists in four games. The Czech Republic will play the United States — Group A’s second-place team — on Saturday. Boston Bruins prospect David Pastrnak had two assists, and New Jersey Devils draftee Pavel Zacha picked up an assist in his return to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
Vehvilainen struggled but stopped 31 shots to pick up the win. Vanecek, who gave up only four games in his previous three games, made 22 saves in defeat.