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Slovakia upsets Sweden, 4-3

Former Wing Kopecky nets winner in third period

Thursday, 02.25.2010 / 9:47 AM ET / News
By Dan Rosen
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Slovakia upsets Sweden, 4-3
Detroit Red WingsPARTICIPATING RED WINGSDetroit Red Wings

G
A
P
+/-
PIM
NICKLAS LIDSTROM 0 0 0 -2 0
HENRIK ZETTERBERG
1 0 1 0 0
NIKLAS KRONWALL
0 0 0 -2 0
JOHAN FRANZEN
0 0 0 -1 0

VANCOUVER
-- Pavol Demitra called it the biggest win in Slovakia's ice hockey history and it's hard to disagree with him.

Hours after Canada steamrolled the Russians here at Canada Hockey Place to earn a berth in the semifinals, Slovakia stunned Sweden, 4-3, winning the right to try to take down the big bad Canadians on Friday night at 9:30 p.m. ET.

No matter the outcome, the Slovaks have already had their best Olympics ever. Their previous best was four years ago in Torino when they finished fifth after coming in 13th at Salt Lake in 2002.

"We've got nothing to lose," Tomas Kopecky, who scored the winning goal with 10:59 left in the third period, told NHL.com. "They are the favorites. We're just going to play a solid hockey game and that's how we're going to win."

The Slovaks didn't make their way to the international ice hockey stage until 1994, one year after the breakup of Czechoslovakia. That year they finished 21st in the World Championships and sixth in the Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

They improved in each of the next seven years and finally peaked in 2002 by winning gold at the IIHF World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden. Six players from that team played in Wednesday night's game.

"We know we can play," Demitra, who had a goal and two assists, told NHL.com. "Obviously it's the biggest win for our country ever, and we're having a great time. We have a group of guys that this will be the last time we play together ever, so we're enjoying it and we're working hard for each other."

Slovakia staggered to a 4-3 win as the favorite in Tuesday night's qualification round game against upstart Norway. Marian Hossa told NHL.com afterward that he felt Slovakia would be better against Sweden because it would be the underdog and could go back to playing a more structured, disciplined game.

That's precisely what happened.

Slovakia managed only seven shots on goal over the final two periods, but four of them beat Sweden goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The Slovaks had only 14 shots for the game while Jaroslav Halak stopped 26 of 29 from Sweden.

"We are a very disciplined team defensively," Marian Gaborik told NHL.com. "I think it was a tight game overall, Halak was great in net and we got the edge on Lundqvist. It's a big game for us. Huge."

Gaborik scored on a low, sliding one-timer 7:34 into the second period to give Slovakia a 1-0 lead. Less than a minute later, Andrej Sekera finished off a 2-on-1 with Richard Zednik with a slam dunk goal to make it 2-0.

Sweden came back to get a pair from Patric Hornqvist and Henrik Zetterberg just 37 seconds apart, but Demitra staked Slovakia to a 3-2 lead by wiring his blistering slap shot from the left circle into the top right corner of the net for a power-play goal with 48 seconds left in the second period.

Michal Handzus took Sweden defenseman Mattias Ohlund to the front of the net and Lundqvist told NHL.com he couldn't see the puck coming off Demitra's stick between the two big bodies in front of him.

"And he just took a perfect shot," Lundqvist said.

"When (Handzus) is in front there, he knows what he's doing," Demitra added. "He put a great screen for me and I just let it go. It somehow found the right corner."

Demitra helped set up Kopecky's winning goal by racing out for a 2-on-1 with Marian Hossa. As he saucered the pass across to Hossa, Kopecky filled the middle lane. Lundqvist came out to play the puck, but it stayed free in the slot and Kopecky was there to bang it in, giving Slovakia a 4-2 lead.

"I knew Pavol was going to pass it to Marian and I was just hoping there would be a loose puck, a rebound," Kopecky said. "I went to the net hard, stopped in front and that's how you get the goals.

"It's really exciting. It was unbelievable."

Sweden answered Kopecky's goal 38 seconds later when Daniel Alfredsson finished off a gorgeous behind-the-net pass from Nicklas Backstrom. However, Slovakia never panicked, kept playing its defensive game and stayed out of the penalty box to preserve the lead and the win.

"We did everything we were talking about doing before the game," Gaborik said. "There was a system, being disciplined, being on the puck and winning the battles. We did all of that and Halak was great in net. I'm proud of these guys."

The Slovaks now have every reason to believe they can beat Canada, too. They already took down Russia in a shootout during the preliminary round and they just sent the defending gold medalists packing, too.

"We have to play the same way we did (Wednesday)," Gaborik said. "This was an unbelievable game from everybody."


GAME SUMMARY

SCORING
SVK 0 3 1 - 4
SWE 0 2 1 - 3

First Period Scoring: No Scoring.

First Period Penalties: Pahlsson SWE (roughing) 9:31, Zednik SVK (interference) 10:22, Johansson SWE (tripping) 11:36, Tallinder (hooking) 16:04.

Second Period Scoring: 1. SVK, Gaborik (Hossa, Demitra) 7:34 (PPG); 2. SVK, Sekera (Zednik, Palffy) 8:11; 3. SWE, Hornqvist (Forsberg) 13:49; 4. SWE, Zetterberg (Enstrom) 14:26;
5. SVK, Demitra (Chara, Marian Hossa) 19:12 (PPG).

Second Period Penalties: SWE (too many players on the ice) 6:19, Enstrom SWE (tripping) 18:19, Cibak SVK (tripping) 19:33. 

Third Period Scoring: 6. SVK, Kopecky (Marian Hossa, Demitra) 9:01; 7. SWE, Alfredsson (Backstrom, Eriksson) 9:39.

Third Period Penalties: Gaborik SVK (roughing) 2:41.

SHOTS ON GOAL
SVK  7  4  3 - 14
SWE  7 12 10 - 29

Goaltenders (goals-shots against): SVK: Halak (W, 3-29); SWE: Lundqvist (L, 4-14).

Power plays (goals-chances): SVK: 2-5; SWE: 0-3.



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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