Czechs rally to thump US for bronze

Jalonen and US coach David Quinn each started the NHL netminders that got them this far. However, Jalonen pulled Karel Vejmelka of the Arizona Coyotes after he let in three first-period goals on eight shots.

Substituting backup Marek Langhamer to start the second period paid off. Langhamer, who plays in Tampere for Ilves, looked comfortable and confident and was named the Czech Player of the Game, allowing just one goal on 16 shots.

Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman, who backstopped the US to within one goal of the final in the 4-3 semi-final loss to host Finland, recorded 25 saves.

This was the most goals ever scored by the Czechs versus the US at the Worlds in the era of Czechia. Czechoslovakia beat the US 11-2 in both 1981 and 1985.

“It got out of hand a little bit,” said Jones. “Going 3-2 into the third period, we were in a good spot. We’re not where we wanted to be. We gave up six goals in the third period. Obviously it happened against a high-score offense.”

The Americans opened the scoring at 9:33, profiting from a fortunate bounce. Off a faceoff in the Czech end, Andrew Peeke’s shot from the blue line deflected off the skate of defender Michael Kempny, enabling Kuhlman to put the puck into the open side.

At 12:14, Gaudette gave the US a 2-0 lead on the power play. TJ Tynan fed Matthew Boldy down low and he centered it to the Ottawa Senators forward, who fired it home. It was a mirror image of the late third-period goal Gaudette scored against Finland.

Swayman stopped Matej Blumel on a partial break with under seven minutes left in the first period. But the Czechs persevered and cut the gap to 2-1. Jakub Flek came out of the corner with the puck and fed Cernoch, who took the puck off his skate and fired it through Swayman’s five-hole despite being surrounded by three US checkers.

Showing great anticipation, Kuhlman scored shorthanded with just 13 seconds left in the opening frame. The US broke out of its zone, and after Kuhlman pivoted to send a backhanded pass to Sam Lafferty, he hustled to the net to convert a subsequent feed from Nate Schmidt.

Kuhlman, a fourth-year NHLer who was acquired by the Seattle Kraken off waivers from the Boston Bruins, isn’t known as a big scorer. The former University of Minnesota-Duluth captain had just two assists in his nine previous games in Finland. In 100 career NHL games, Kuhlman has nine goals and 14 assists. Unfortunately, his hot first period was as good as it got for America.

At 12:12 of the second period, the Czechs made it a one-goal game. Sklenicka’s release from the left point hit Peeke in front, and as the US rearguard struggled to find the puck at his feet, Smejkal banged the rebound past a surprised Swayman.

“Thank God our goal came there,” said Smejkal. “That really helped us going into the third that we were down by just one goal.”

The third period was wild. Just 51 seconds in, the Czechs drew even at 3-3. Peeke tried to clear the puck out on the right wall, but it barely got over the blue line, where Tomas Hertl and the linesman stood. Herlt got the puck to Pastrnak and he swooped into the faceoff circle to score on a quick release, using Peeke as his decoy.

“We switched the lines a little bit,” Hertl said. “Me and Pasta, we played together a couple of times in summer hockey, so we found some chemistry and scored some goals. I know he’s one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL, so I just tried to find him and he can did the rest. It worked out and I’m just happy we won.”

At 2:29, Cervenka gave Czechia its first lead of the game. Off a draw in the US end, Krejci won it back to the Czech captain and he zipped it past Swayman’s glove before the netminder could budge.

“After the second period we said in the locker room that we have 20 minutes and we have to put it all in,” Cervenka said. “We scored in the beginning of the third and one goal came after another. We controlled the game and were better and faster and we made it.”

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