Reigning world champions Czech Republic maintained their lead in qualifying Group E at the ice hockey world championships by beating Russia 3-2 in a repeat of last year’s final on Sunday.
Jakub Voracek, Jaromir Jagr and Tomas Plekanec scored one goal apiece, while goalkeeper Ondrej Pavelec made 24 saves to give the Czech Republic a 7-6 advantage in head-to-head meetings with Russia at the world championships.
The longstanding rivals, who played their first match at the 1954 world championships, fought out an even contest without managing to break the deadlock until just past the 14 minute mark in the first period when the Czech Republic struck.
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Voracek seized on defender Martin Skoula’s pass from the blue line and spun in front of Russia goalkeeper Konstantin Barulin to send the puck into an unguarded net.
The 39-year-old Czech veteran Jagr added another just two minutes later beating Barulin between the pads with a shot from the right face-off circle to give his side a comfortable 2-0 lead at the end of the first period.
Russia, who were boosted with the introduction of Washington Capitals marksman Alexander Ovechkin after his side exited the Stanley Cup playoffs, stepped up a gear and leveled through Alexei Tereshchenko, who sent home a rebound after Alexander Radulov’s shot on a power play at the 11 minute, 50 second mark of the second period.
However, 3 minutes, 27 seconds into the third period the Czech Republic were awarded a penalty shot and Plekanec restored his team’s two-goal lead sending the puck home under Barulin’s arm.
Danis Zaripov reduced the arrears again firing into an unguarded net from Dmitri Kalinin’s short cross with 4 minutes, 56 seconds to go in the third period.
Russia coach Slava Bykov replaced Barulin with a sixth field player, but it did not yield the result he had hoped for.
“I’m quite satisfied with my team today’s playing,” Czech coach Alois Hadamczik said. “We were keeping the playing under our control for the bigger part of the match. Luckily we managed to calm down after a tough ending of the second period to finish the match well.”
In Group F, Switzerland’s bid to reach the knockout stages suffered another blow as they fell to a 2-0 defeat by Sweden.
Sweden forward Mikael Backlund finally broke the deadlock 7 minutes, 47 seconds into the third firing the puck into the top left-hand corner with a powerful slap shot from just inside the blue line.
Switzerland manager Sean Simpson also substituted his goalie Leonardo Genoni for a sixth field player, but it was Sweden who were to score a decisive second.
Backlund scored an empty-net goal with 32 seconds remaining leaving Switzerland with only a mathematical chance for a place in the playoffs.