ZURICH-KLOTEN- As World Championship tournament play progresses the game becomes more closely contested and teams really have to battle for space to score goals.
When there is more on the line, every inch of space on the ice and every bounce of the puck are instantly more important.
This was case in tonight’s evening tilt at Arena Zurich-Kloten where Finland beat Slovakia 2-1 in overtime on captain Sami Kapanen’s overtime goal.
Both teams engaged in an on ice chess match that would be decided in the extra session.
"It is great to get the win," said Pekka Rinne. "We struggled a bit tonight it was not one of our strongest games."
Team Slovakia played perhaps its best game of the tournament so far after winning one and losing two in the Preliminary Round. They managed to tighten up defensively and not take penalties as they did against Canada.
Despite talking after their last game about scoring first, Slovakia would once again find themselves in a 0-1 hole for the third consecutive game.
Finland scored first as Sami Kapanen lit the lamp with a shorthanded goal. With Jarkko Immonen in the penalty box for holding, Petteri Nummelin skated into the offensive end and sent a backhand pass cross ice in to Kapanen who rifled a shot past Halak.
The goal was Kapanen’s first of the tournament at 15:05. Nummelin picked up the lone assist.
Early on, both teams traded chances but could only manage a goal each over regulation time.
"We had a few chances to go up 2-1 in the second period but couldn't score," said Halak. "Sometimes hockey is about luck and we did not have much luck tonight."
Slovakia was able to effectively bottle up Finland’s top line of Niklas Hagman-Antti Mietinnen-Niko Kapanen. The trio managed only one shot on goal over the first two periods.
Equally, Finland kept Marcel Hossa in check. Despite three goals and five points in tournament play, he was scoreless in this game.
Two minutes into the second, Slovakia came back to tie the game at one. Michal Handzus was streaking on the wing into the Finland zone and shot the puck on goal, Pekka Rinne made the save but the rebound was sitting in front and Lubos Bartecko slammed it home. Bartecko is tied with Hossa for the team lead in goal scoring with three.
"I'd like to have that one back," said Rinne of the goal. "But it was a hard slap shot and a quick rebound that I could not do much with it."
There were some good back and forth moments in the third but the game would go to overtime when Finland would strike with 1:21 left on Kapanen’s second of the game and the deciding goal.
"I just saw a Finnish guy behind me with the puck and he put it in the crease," said Halak. "I thought the guy there would be checked ut he wasn't so it was an easy goal."
Finland wore vintage sweaters from 1965 to commemorate the first time their country hosted the World Championships.
Both teams play again on Saturday, April 2. Slovakia takes on the Czech Republic in the afternoon contest and Finland meets Belarus in the night game.