Kipper wins opener
Finland shuts out Czech Republic 4-0
Team Finland's Jukka Hentunen (25) scores his team's first goal past team Czech Republic's goalkeeper Tomas Vokoun, left, as team Finland's Niklas Hagman, right, and the Czech Republic's Jiri Slegr look on during the first period of the teams' World Cup of Hockey match in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday Aug. 30 2004. (AP Photo/ Matti Bjorkman, Lehtikuva)
HELSINKI (AP) -- Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff posted an easy shutout as Finland blanked the Czech Republic 4-0 in the World Cup of Hockey opener on Monday.
Finland led 1-0 after the first two periods and broke the game open with three unanswered goals in the third.
Kiprusoff, who was sensational for the Calgary Flames last season when the team went all the way to the finals, had a relatively easy night, stopping only 12 shots.
Nashville Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun had 30 saves for the Czechs.
"It was important to get the right feeling," Kiprusoff said after the game. "There was not much work to do, but a few times they broke in to the goal from the corners creating danger. I knew beforehand how the Czechs play, they don't fire that fast, rather they want to hold on to the puck."
Most players complained about the bad ice, but it didn't bother Kiprusoff.
"The bad ice did not affect me, but of course you had to stay awake because the puck can take a bounce from players' sticks," he said.
Jukka Hentunen, who plays in Switzerland with Fribourg-Gotteron, Saku Koivu of the Montreal Canadiens, Niko Kapanen of the Dallas Stars and Mikko Eloranta, one of only two players on the roster who plays in the Finnish League, scored for the Finns.
Finland carried the play in the first period and took the lead at 6:33 when Hentunen lunged forward and tapped in Kapanen's pass around goalie Tomas Vokoun from just outside the crease.
Koivu, captain of Finland and Montreal, scored the Finns' second goal just 30 seconds into the third, beating Vokoun with a backhander between the legs from close range.
Kapanen tipped in defenceman Sami Salo's wrist shot from just inside the blue line at 4:54 to make it 3-0.
Eloranta rounded out the scoring at 8:51, knocking in a rebound after Vokoun made the initial save on defenceman Kimmo Timonen's shot.
Koivu's line, with Teemu Selanne of the Colorado Avalanche and Jere Lehtinen of Dallas, were reunited for the first time in a competitive game since the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan, where Finland beat Canada in the bronze-medal game.
"We played well, but every team will improve," Koivu said. "I was a bit surprised the Czechs were not better. The key was that we were moving very well and could put pressure on their defencemen, and they had to take penalties."
Sweden and Germany, the two other European pool teams, meet on Tuesday in Stockholm.
This was the first competitive game for the Czechs since the death of their coach Ivan Hlinka, who was killed in an automobile accident in the Czech Republic on the eve of the tournament.
Hlinka, a former coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins and considered the Czechs' best player ever, was replaced by former NHL player Vladimir Ruzicka.
After a disappointing finish as host of the world championships, the Czechs came into the World Cup eager to prove some recent international struggles were flukes. Playing for the memory of a revered coach, the Czechs were supposed to have all the incentive, but it didn't show on Monday.
With all four teams advancing to the quarter-finals after round-robin play, home-ice advantage could be vital before the tournament moves to North America for the semifinals and the final.
The United States, which beat Canada in the inaugural World Cup in 1996, opens play on Tuesday in Montreal against Canada. The other teams in the North American pool are Russia and Slovakia.
Czech Republic 0 vs. Finland 4
HELSINKI (CP) -- World Cup of Hockey Monday afternoon:
1. Finland, Hentunen 1 (Kapanen, Numminen) 6:33
Penalty -- Elias Cze (obstruction-hooking) 2:03.
Penalties -- Jagr Cze (holding) 1:30, Jokinen Fin (high-sticking) 9:22, Ruckinsky Cze (tripping) 13:27, Vyborny Cze (interference) 18:15.
2. Finland, S. Koivu 1 (Lehtinen) 0:30
3. Finland, Kapanen 1 (Salo, Peltonen) 4:54 (pp)
4. Finland, Eloranta 1 (Timonen, M. Koivu) 8:51
Penalties -- Skoula Cze (holding) 4:09, Malik Cze (hooking) 11:11, Elias Cze (unsportsmanlike conduct), Jokinen Fin (interference) 16:15.
Shots on goal by
Czech Republic 5 4 3--12
Finland 13 11 10--34
Goal -- Czech Republic: Vokoun (L,0-1-0); Finland: Kiprusoff (W,1-0-0).
Power plays (goals-chances) -- Czech Republic: 0-1; Finland: 1-6.
Referees -- Marc Joanette, Don Koharksi. Linesmen -- Greg Devorski, Brad Lazarowich.
Attendance -- 11,407.