EDMONTON — Petr Mrazek, the Czech Republic goaltender who gave Canada fits, put the lights out on the United States, making 52 saves in 5-2 win at the world junior hockey championships Friday.
The Detroit Red Wings prospect turned back point-blank shots and goalmouth redirections, stopped a penalty shot and even got a little help from his goalpost in the win at Rexall Place.
The victory by the Czechs assured 3-0 Canada would win Pool B and get a bye to the semifinal. The rival U.S. (1-2) was sent to the relegation round later Friday when Finland hammered Denmark 10-1.
"I was so focused before the game because it was the America and I’m playing in (North) American hockey," said Mrazek, with the Ottawa 67′s of the Ontario Hockey League.
"I wanted to win this game.
"The guys helped me a lot in the zone, with rebounds. It’s a win for the team."
Mrazek shone earlier in the tournament in a 5-0 loss to Canada.
More at Buzzing the Net: WJC2012: Criticism of Mrazek’s fist pump was offside | Read it here
The win put the 2-1 Czechs into a tie with Finland for second place in Pool B but neither team can catch Canada. Finland and the Czechs meet Saturday.
Switzerland faced Latvia later Friday in Group A action in Calgary.
U.S. forward Jason Zucker said the loss to the Czechs was stunning.
"No words can describe it," said Zucker.
"We played a fantastic game tonight. I thought we played outstanding.
"Usually if you get 54 shots in a game you give yourself a damn good chance to win (but) hats off to them. They played well and their goalie played great."
The Americans outshot the Czechs 18-6 in the first period and 15-13 in the second but as the third period started were knotted at two goals each.
Both times the U.S. took the lead only to see the Czechs rebound by scoring on American goalie Jack Campbell, who looked shaky often fighting the puck and struggling to control rebounds.
He didn’t get any help from the partisan anti-U.S. crowd at Rexall Place.
The fans cheered loudly for the Czech Republic, lustily booed the Americans and mocked the U.S. netminder with drawn out mocking chants of "Caaampbelllll, Caaampbellllll!"
The Americans stormed the Czechs in the third period and were poised to take the lead when Josh Archibald was pulled down on a breakaway was awarded a penalty shot.
The American tried a backhand deke on Mrazek but lost control of the puck and it bounced off the side of the net.
Just a couple of minutes later Campbell failed to corral a goalmouth rebound and Czech forward Peter Holik banged in what proved to be the game winner.
Tomas Filippi added his second goal of the game with less than three minutes to go, before Holik scored into an empty net to seal the victory.
Tomas Hertl also scored for the Czech Republic while TJ Tynan and Bill Arnold replied for the Americans.
Filippi agreed Mrazek was the difference.
"He stops everything. You can’t beat that," he said.
The Americans opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 5:14 of the first period. JT Miller, streaking down the left wing, slipped the puck through the slot, which Tynan then redirected past Mrazek.
The Czechs were playing short handed at the time after forward Petr Straka was given a boarding major and a game misconduct for ramming U.S. defenceman Derek Forbort into the boards at centre ice.
The Czechs answered back at 12:05 when Filippi fired a shot from close in on Campbell.
Campbell blocked the shot with his goal pad but before he could smother the puck Filippi banged it through his legs and into the net.
The Americans regained the lead at 11:50 of the second period. Mrazek deflected a bad-angle shot from Zucker right to Arnold, who was standing at the side of the crease for the quick tap in.
Czech forward Hertl answered back three minutes later, grabbing a turnover in the U.S. end, walking in alone on Campbell and lifting a backhand shot over Campbell’s left shoulder.
That set the stage for a frantic third period that saw the U.S. fire 21 shots at Mrazek — and lose.
"I don’t really know what to say," said Miller.
"We hit three posts, so I guess it just wasn’t our day I guess.
"It’s not like we played bad and got beat up on. We played our best and it still wasn’t enough, which is just really upsetting."
Finland 10 Denmark 1
At Edmonton, Teemu Pulkkinen tied a tournament record with four goals in the third period as Finland hammered winless Denmark.
Miikka Salomaki had two goals and two assists for Finland (2-1) while Ville Pokka had a goal and two assists.
Jani Hakanpaa, Joel Armia and Mikael Kuronen also scored.
Patrick Bjorkstrand had the only goal for Denmark (0-4), which is headed to the relegation round.
Denmark only dressed 15 players for the game.
More at Buzzing the Net: WJC2012: 5 Danish players scratched for podium shenanigans| Read it here