The Finns leaned heavily on their power play to get past Latvia in its previous game, and there was more of the same here. The host nation had the edge in the first period, but had to wait for Mikael Granlund – brother of former Salavat Yulaev man Markus – to break the deadlock on the PP in the 17th minute.
Given Finland’s power play prowess, the last thing team USA could afford was a major penalty. However, that’s exactly what Austin Watson got when he clattered ... The Leijonat roared into a 3-0 lead with tallies from captain Valtteri Filppula and Sakari Manninen, another ex-Ufa man.
Mikko Lehtonen, an accomplished performer with Jokerit and SKA during his KHL career, had an assist on the first Finnish goal – and two more in the win over Latvia. Now he was set for his first goal of the tournament, finding the net during a passage of 4-on-4 to make it 4-0 to the Finns. At the other end, Juho Olkinuora continued his assured form from the opening game against Norway and went close to a second successive shut-out before allowing Alex Galenchyuk to squeeze in a late consolation effort.
Latvia picked up its first victory in Tampere with a hard-fought 3-2 verdict over Norway. There are new arrivals expected in the Latvian camp, with Kristians Rubins on his way to Finland after the Maple Leafs came out of the NHL playoffs and Teddy Blugers potentially following him due to Pittsburgh’s loss yesterday. Today, though, Harijs Vitolins continued with the same team that came so close to upsetting Finland.
The Latvians were first to settle and went in front in the 15th minute through Rodrigo Abols, only for Norway to tie it up before the intermission.
After the break, a full two minutes of five-on-three power play helped Nikolajs Jelisejevs fire Latvia back in front, and once the teams were back at full strength, Roberts Bukarts increased the lead.
Norway battled back hard in the third period and made it a one-goal game midway through the frame. But Latvia defended doggedly to claim a win that lifts the team off the foot of Group B.
In Group A action, Canada powered to a 5-1 victory over Slovakia. Two goals from Pierre-Luc Dubois paced the Canadian offense. Slovakia, Olympic bronze medallist in February, slips to a second successive loss after dropping a 2-1 verdict to Germany in its previous game.
The Germans, meanwhile, took on France and made it back-to-back successes thanks to Leonhard Pfoderl’s third-period game-winner. Daniel Fischbuch converted the first power play of the game to give Germany the advantage, only for Alexandre Texier to tie it up. But Alexander Ehl restored the German lead late in the opening frame and despite a second French equalizer, Pfoderl scored early in the third to give Germany the win.