Friday, March 9, 2012

Vítkovice and Budějovice even series on the road

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A pair of Czech Extraliga clubs faced the prospect of going home in their quarterfinal series down 2-0, but both rallied to win and even their respective series. Vítkovice won in a shootout in Pardubice, while České Budějovice scored five times in the third period to win in Liberec.

Pardubice 2 - 3 Vítkovice (shootout)
(Best-of-seven series tied 1-1)

Filip Šindelář was looking through traffic for much of Friday's game.
Photo:  Jan Jedlička,
The visitors from the Silesio-Moravian border city of Ostrava never led in game two of their quarterfinal series in Pardubice, but they got timely goaltending from Filip Šindelář, had an answer both times they were scored on during regulation and eventually prevailed in a shootout to win the hockey game.

Pardubice captain Petr Koukal opened the scoring on a first-period power play when he won a battle for the rebound. After Šindelář made a great save in the opening minute of the second to prevent his team from falling behind two goals, the reliable duo of Jiří Burger and Viktor Ujčík worked some magic to tie the score, which was finished off by Ujčík's bullet that beat Martin Růžička.

As the game's midpoint approached, Vítkovice got a chance to to take the lead when they got a chance on the power play, but just as they did in game one, they surrendered a shorthanded goal, as Šindelář was helpless to stop Tomáš Zohorna's one-timer on a two-on-one. They did get it back, though, in the last minute of the second period while the teams played four-on-four; Jan Káňa had an easy tap in after a miscue by Pardubice forward Jan Kolář (not to be confused by the defenceman on the same team with the same name; they are unrelated).

Pardubice got a pair of power-play chances in the first half of the third period and was dangerous on them, but Šindelář stood tall in goal, making key stops against both of Pardubice's Jan Kolářs to keep the game tied. In overtime, he denied Kolář the forward once more.

In the shootout, Šindelář stopped both Pardubice shots he faced, one of them a nice poke-check against the forward Kolář, who just couldn't buy a break in this game. At the other end, Burger and Ujčík scored on two of Vítkovice's two three attempts to end the game.

Liberec 4 - 6 České Budějovice
(Best-of-seven series tied 1-1)

Jakub Kovář made 42 saves to help his team win on Friday.
Photo: Vladimíř Jína,
With exactly one minute left in the second period, Marek Tročinský streaked across the blueline, took a feed from Daniel Špaček, and and perfectly fired a high shot over the glove of Jakub Kovář, the Budějovice goaltender who had given them fits to that point in the game, to give Liberec a 2-1 lead.

With a lead after two periods against the sometimes offensively challenged Mountfield club, it looked like the White Tigers were in good shape to take a two-game lead in the series. Early in the third period, while shorthanded, Lukáš Vantuch scored his second goal of the game when he got his own rebound and scored to make it 3-1. The Liberec squad appeared to be on its way. But the game changed, and it changed quickly.

Just 35 seconds later, Mountfield managed to cash in on their power play, which was still in progress, Martin Podlešák tipped in František Ptaček's point shot. Then, 43 seconds after that, the visitors caught a bit of a break when Peter Mikúš threw the puck toward the Liberec net and it hit forward Pavel Kašpařík on the instep of his right skate and went in to tie the score. Less than three minutes later, Jakub Langhammer was in the right place at the right time to give the club from South Bohemia its first lead of the game.

The barrage of goals in the period was not over yet, though. Liberec did tie the score when Tomáš Urban took a pass from Vantuch and fired a shot just under the crossbar. It was the fifth goal of the period, which was not yet half over.

Mountfield retook the lead with 7:08 on the clock when, on a two-on-one, Tomáš Mertl found Rudolf Červený, who put a perfect shot inside the post past the glove of Marek Pinc. But the dangerous Liberec offence wasn't just going to give up, and when Budějovice took a too-many-men penalty with 5:54 to go, the game was nearly tied again.

Petr Nedvěd, the league's leading scorer through the regular season but held pointless in this game, got his best chance of the night on the late power play, but was robbed at point-blank range by Kovář, who also took care of Michal Bárta's attempt from further out right afterward. Almost lost in all the third period scoring was the goaltending of Kovář, who has been the difference in so many of his team's games this season and was the reason they were within striking distance after two periods. He stopped 42 of 46 shots on the night.

Jiří Šimánek's empty-netter, the seventh goal of the period, made the final score 6-4. It was Šimánek's second goal of the game, part of a three-point game.

Both series are now idle for two days while the other two quarterfinal series, Sparta Praha-Brno and Plzeň-Zlín, get underway. The third and fourth games in Vítkovice and České Budějovice will be played on Monday and Tuesday.

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