ZURICH-KLOTEN – The Czech Republic took advantage of a tired Slovakian team to pad individual and team statistics at the expense of their neighbours. They scored four goals in the first period, chased goalie Jan Lasak in the second, and played solid defence in the third. The result was an 8-0 slaughter of Slovakia.
It was the most lop-sided result between these neighbouring nations that formerly formed Czechoslovakia and the worst loss by Slovakia in its World Championship history.
"Right from the beginning we felt slow and gave them every chance," offered Slovakian captain Lubos Bartecko. "I don't understand how we could play at such a high level yesterday against Finland and then play so poorly today. It's embarrassing."
Jakub Klepis and Karel Rachunek had three assists, Jaromir Jagr scored twice, and Patrik Elias, playing for the first time since being added to the roster, also scored. In all, 14 players recorded at least one point in the game.
The win moves the Czech Republic into third spot of Group F with six points, ahead of Belarus, which plays the late game here in Kloten tonight. The loss leaves the Slovaks precariously in fifth place with just two points, out of qualification for the quarterfinals.
"At this level," Bartecko acknowledged, "every player must be able to manage back-to-back games. You can't make excuses for having a game yesterday."
Goalie Lasak was excellent in the opening period, dominated by the Czechs, but he was bested by Jaromir Jagr twice in short order. On the first, Rachunek’s point shot was deflected in front by Jagr and hit Lasak in the chest, but the puck fell right to Jagr’s stick and he swatted the puck into the net before Lasak knew what had happened.
"We wanted to get on them early," said Czech Karel Rachunek. "We got some good bounces, and by the end of the first period the game was pretty much over. The key to the game was putting pressure on them in their end."
The Czechs continued to pressure, and Ales Hemsky made a great pass at the top of the crease to Jagr off to the side as Lasak played the shot, and Jagr’s quick shot squeezed past the goalie to open a 2-0 lead.
Miroslav Blatak upped the score on a five-on-three advantage as he blew a slapshot past the overwhelmed Lasak, and Roman Cervenka made it 4-0 after a great pass from the corner from Josef Vasicek.
The final shots count for the first period was plenty telling – 19-2 for the Czechs. Not helping matters was that Slovakia also took the only three penalties of the period.
Ales Kotalik continued the onslaught with a goal at 5:07 of the second period, but it was the highlight-reel pass by Jaroslav Hlinka that wowed the crowd. Hlinka brought the puck in on the rush and faced four Slovakian defencemen. He moved to the outside and all defenders followed him. Hlinka made a no-look back pass to Kotalik on the back side of the play, and Kotalik had a wide open net to hit.
Cervenka added number six by swiping a bouncing puck into the top corner and Mihalik’s goal was the last shot Lasak faced as coach Jan Filc mercifully inserted Jaroslav Halak. A short time later, Czech coach Vladimir Ruzicka also made a change, putting in Jakub Stepanek for some playing time.
Elias beat Halak with a great one-timer late in the second period which ended with a shots on goal imbalance of 34-9. The Slovakians showed some fight in the third period, but the closest they came was a shot off the post from Ladislav Nagy.
Both teams play their final games of the Qualification Round in the next two days. The Czechs play again May 3 against Belarus while the Slovakians play May 4 against Norway.
"We couldn't have played any better tonight, but there's a long way to go and a lot of games still to play," Rachunek admitted.