The last time Finland and Denmark met, Denmark had a stunning result, getting their first ever regulation tournament win, backstopped by Kasper Krog. Finland was on their way to a relegation round appearance, while Denmark was on their way to their highest WJC finish ever.
This year was a slightly different story, though Krog once more got the start.
Denmark began very strongly, right from the opening face-off. Andreas Grundtvig got a chance one-on-one with Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, but Finland opened the scoring on a nice tip by Joona Koppanen to make it 1-0.
Lucas Andersen took a hooking call at 4:45, but the Danish penalty kill held them off — on the advantage, at least. Just moments after the penalty kill, however, Aapeli Rasanen put the puck through traffic to make it 2-0.
Finland largely dominated play in the shifts that followed, and Christian Mathiasen-Wejse took a hooking call half way through the frame. Krog got a delay of game penalty for removing his mask, giving Finland a minute long 5-on-3. The Danish penalty kill went to work though, and killed off the two-man disadvantage, and then the one man kill.
The rest of the first period looked much more like Denmark's previous games in previous tournaments. Finland kept the puck cycling in the Danish zone, but between better goaltending and better defense than they'd shown previously, the score remained 2-0. The lengthy 5-on-3 seemed to kick Krog into top gear, and he was excellent thereafter. Wejse just missed a gorgeous pass from behind the Finnish net, and the period ended 2-0 for Finland, who out-shot the Danes 13-1.
Denmark drew a power play opportunity on an offensive zone penalty to Finland 1:20 into the second, and Nikolaj Krag scored on a gorgeous shot from the point.
Valdemar Ahlberg took a less-than-ideal slashing call less than 20 seconds later, but once again, the Danish penalty killers. Finland continued to allow a hard working Denmark to hang around down one goal in the second.
That is not to say, however, that Finland didn't continue to put up way more shots, and carry the play—especially as the period progressed into the later stages. Jonas Rondbjerg and Joachim Blichfeld had a pair of chances around the Finnish net, but Luukkonen remained sharp, despite it being only his sixth and seventh shots of the game. The lack of finish on those chances ended up hurting, as Flames draft pick Juuso Valimaki made it 3-1 from Stars draft pick Miro Heiskanen after a lengthy stretch of great saves from Krog, once more giving Finland a two goal lead. Finland struck again, as Henri Jokiharju batted the puck through traffic provided by Canadiens prospect Joni Ikonen, and through Krog.
After 40, Denmark continued to be out-shot by their usual huge margin 46-7, and after making a game of it in the early going, down 4-1.
Krog was called upon to make a number of saves within the first 1:30 of the third, and then again, and again, and again through the first half of the third.
There weren't many whistles in the final 20, but Denmark took a penalty with 7:50 to go. The Danish penalty killers turned into shot blocking machines through the penalty kill, getting a couple of big ones from Daniel Nielsen, and Christian Mathiasen-Wejse, who headed off to the room after his shift ended.
By the time the penalty kill came to an end, Krog had seen 60 shots, and it wasn't over yet, as Finland went back to the power play. Krog continued to battle, but Denmark got hit with another 5-on-3 as Malte Setkov joined Magnus Molge in the box. Once again Krog and the penalty killers stood their ground, with another terrific showing.
Finland coasted through the last moments of their 4-1 win, with 62 shots, and will face Slovakia on the 30th, while Denmark will face Canada on the same day.
Though he didn't get named player of the game, Krog was easily Denmark's best player, making 58/62 saves. The Danish penalty killers also deserve recognition, throwing themselves repeatedly in front of shots, and remaining perfect through seven penalties, including the two lengthy 5-on-3s.
- Krog was lights out from the 5-on-3 penalty kill in the first to the end, seeing over 60 shots, while Denmark's top players, Jonas Rondbjerg, Joachim Blichfeld, and of course Nikolaj Krag, had good chances, but were (with the exception of Krag) unable to capitalize.
- Finland's expected bounce back performance appears to be well underway. If they have a weakness, from this game, it looks to be the power play —though how much of that is down to Denmark's typically strong penalty kill is hard to say.