Thursday, March 31, 2011

Třinec forces game 7

On Wednesday night at O2 Arena in Prague, Slavia Praha and Oceláři Třinec met in the sixth game of their semifinal series with, as the saying goes, Slavia looking to end it and Třinec looking to extend it. Třinec had already fought off one match point on home ice on Monday, and were looking to take the series back to their barn for a decisive seventh game on Friday.

The two teams traded goals early on, and then midway through the first period Slavia found themselves with an extended five-on-three advantage. They blew a similar opportunity on Monday and weren't about to again, and Tomáš Svoboda took advantage of a fortuitous bounce when the puck was kicked onto his stick and he buried it to give Slavia the lead. In the second, Svoboda scored his second of the game when he came out from the corner and fired a perfect backhander off the far post and in to really put Slavia in the driver's seat.

But things turned around quickly.

Just over a minute after Svoboda's second goal, Lukáš Krajiček's point shot deflected off a Slavia defender attempting to block the shot and fluttered past goaltender Miroslav Kopřiva to make it a one-goal game. With less than three minutes to play in the middle frame, defenceman Josef Hrabal tied it with a bullet from the point that went top corner. And then, with only 1:24 left, Martin Růžička's weak-angle shot beat Kopřiva between the legs to give Třinec its first lead of the game.

Slavia's Jiří Vašíček (left) and Třinec's Václav Varaďa duke it out
late in game 6. Neither is likely to face suspension for game 7.
In the third period, Slavia made several strong pushes to tie the game, but were unable to generate much sustained pressure. After an empty-net goal in the last minute put the game away, tempers boiled over and some players traded punches in the dying seconds. Generously, the referees dished out nothing more than minors and misconducts, so it's unlikely any player will miss the seventh game due to suspension.

While Třinec may seem to be in a favourable position, it should be remembered that Slavia also squandered a 3-1 lead in games against Liberec in the quarterfinals and then won the seventh game on the road. "Certainly, we haven't won," said Martin Růžička after the game.

After scoring 4 goals on Monday, Růžička's goal and 2 assists Wednesday lifted his playoff total to 25, setting a new Extraliga record for a single playoff year. "For us, what's really important is how the team plays and if we're winning. I don't care too much about individuals, it's tricky. We have to play as a team, win as a team, and if someone sets a record, it is only secondary. I'm really not thinking about it."

"It's good to know that we can handle these games against opponents that are better on paper, so we believe it now," Slavia's Tomáš Svoboda told the team's website. "We're definitely going to Třinec to win." 

Game 7 will be played Friday, starting at 18:10. It will be televised and webcasted by ČT4.

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