Gangneung, South Korea: Jan Kovar and Petr Koukal scored in a penalty-shot shootout to give the Czech Republic a 3-2 victory over two-time defending champion Canada Saturday in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics men's hockey tournament.
The Czechs could clinch a bye into the quarter-finals by beating Switzerland on Sunday, when the Canadians, who could still earn a bye, face a crucial test against South Korea.
"We have to keep our heads up and come in tomorrow confident. We've got a big game. We can't dwell on it," said Canada's Maxim Noreau, whose final shootout shot clanked off the left post to seal the Czech triumph.
Czech goaltender Pavel Francouz stopped 31 shots in regulation and a five-minute 4-on-4 over-time while Canada netminder Ben Scrivens made 18 saves in the same span, but the game turned on their shootout savvy.
Wojtek Wolski scored for Canada but Koukal lifted a backhand shot over Scrivens to level after two rounds. After a Francouz save on Derek Roy, Kovar netted a wrist shot to put the Czechs ahead.
Two saves later, Noreau had to score to keep Canada alive. His backhand clanged off the post to Francouz's left and the Czechs celebrated.
Canada coach Willie Desjardins was pleased with his team's performance despite the result.
"We knew the Czechs had skill. It was the game we expected," he said. "It was a good game for us. We created lots of chances.
"Now we move ahead. We know we have to get better. Korea will be tough. They played the Czechs 2-1. We expect a good game."
Mason Raymond's power-play goal 73 seconds into the first period put Canada ahead but fellow Swiss-leaguer Dominik Kubalik equalised for the Czechs just five minutes and 39 seconds later.
Rene Bourque, who played 12 National Hockey League seasons before joining a Swedish club last August, netted a power-play goal with six minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the opening period to restore Canada's edge.
Just 25 seconds into the second period, ex-NHLer Michal Jordan pulled the Czechs level again. Each team killed a penalty in the third period on the way to over-time.
Canada's Mat Robinson lost the puck on a breakaway to miss the best over-time chance either team enjoyed.
In later games, the Swiss face South Korea while Slovenia plays Slovakia and the United States meets arch-rival Olympic Athletes from Russia.
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Updated Date: Feb 17, 2018 16:38:57 IST