Canada falls in shootout as Czechs channel spirit of 1998

Goalie Pavel Francouz stymies Canadian offence

By The Canadian Press

The Czech Republic defeated Canada 3-2 in a shootout at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The victory comes nearly 20 years after the Czechs' memorable shootout win over Canada at the 1998 Olympics.

Jan Kovar scored the game-winner and goaltender Pavel Francouz was a stalwart in net, making 31 saves through overtime and another four in the shootout.

The win gives the Czechs top spot in Group A with five points. Canada sits in second with four points after a game where it had almost twice as many shots as its opponent.

Tied 2-2 after 40 minutes, the teams played a cagey third period. The Czechs survived a late penalty for too many men on the ice and then, with 65 seconds left, Canadian goalie Ben Scrivens used his arm to deflect high a blast by Jiri Sekac.

Canada coach Willie Desjardins had asked for more consistency from his team and didn't get it. While the Canadians mounted some effective attacks, they were at sea in their own end at other times.

"Both teams played hard and there were times when they were in our zone as well," Desjardins said after the game. "It is a good game for us and we know we have to get better."

Mason Raymond and René Bourque scored for Canada in the first period, which wraps up preliminary-round play Sunday against South Korea. Bourque now has three goals at the tournament.

Dominik Kubalik and Michal Jordan scored in regulation time for the Czechs, who edged South Korea 2-1 in their opener.

Follow the bouncing puck

The three group winners and the best second-ranked team qualify directly to the quarter-finals. The remaining eight play each other, with the four winners advancing to the quarters.

For the second game in a row, Canada scored on its first shot. The Canadians showed good puck movement on the power play with Linden Vey spotting fellow former Vancouver Canuck Raymond for a slick tip-in in front of goal at 1:13.

The Czechs came close on a power play of their own but the puck bounced off the post during a goal-mouth scramble. And they kept the pressure up, pulling even at 6:52 after Chris Lee failed to clear a bouncing puck. Kubalik reacted quickly, burying the puck past Scrivens from in-close to atone for his earlier penalty.

"I do not know what was going on today. The puck seemed to be bouncing a lot," Canada's Wojtek Wolski said. "A couple of times it went high in the air and there were two or three bounces over sticks."

"We have to find a way to get those pucks and make sure we bear down."

Roy opened up the Czech defence with a nifty rush. He went down but the puck went to Noreau at the point and his shot found its way to Bourque who, finding a seam between two defenders in front, put it away at 13:30.

The Czechs tied it up 35 seconds into the second period. Scrivens, who had mishandled the puck seconds earlier, stopped a Michal Birner shot but Jordan banged in the rebound.

Hard-hitting contest

The game was more intense and physical than Canada's 5-1 opening win over Switzerland. The Czechs, with an effective forecheck, proved to be a stubborn opponent who twice came back from deficits.

The Canadians upped their physical game in the second period, flooring several Czechs. The Czechs did not help their cause late in the period when Canada defenceman Chris Lee ended up in their bench, prompting an interference call.

That made for a brief 5-on-3 that saw Canada hit the crossbar.

Forward Andrew Ebbett limped off midway through the third, favouring his leg after being sandwiched by a pair of Czechs near centre ice. Scrivens came up big later in the period, stopping a Lukas Radil shot from the slot.

Canada came into the game 13-13-1 against the Czech Republic in Olympic and world championship play but had won the last five meetings and eight of the last 10.

Past form means little in a tournament devoid of NHL players, however. The Americans and the team from Russia have already suffered upsets.

Goaltender Justin Peters, defenceman Karl Stollery and forward Quinton Howden did not dress for Canada with defenceman Stefan Elliott and forward Brandon Kozun drawing in.

With files from CBC Sports