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Halak, Slovaks finish solid preliminary round with 6-0 win over Latvia

By Josh Ferguson

Six different players scored in a 6-0 Slovak shellacking of the Latvians in Group B action at Canada Hockey Place on Saturday.

Jaroslav Halak continued to be solid for the Slovakians and stopped all 21 shots he faced to earn the shutout and the victory. Halak finishes the preliminary round of the Olympics with just four goals against in the supposed ‘Group of Death.’

Slovakia opened the scoring just 2:44 into the first when Jozef Stumpel broke into Latvian territory on the power play and patiently coasted around the net before setting Lubomir Visnovsky up with a one-timer blast from the left point that beat Latvian ‘tender Edgars Masalskis.

Richard Zednik and Stumpel would each add one more in the first to take a commanding 3-0 lead into the second period.

The Slovaks opened the middle frame with a full man advantage after Latvia finished the first on a delayed penalty. Just 1:07 into the second, Stumpel deked outside and pulled a beautiful toe drag around a sprawling Georgijs Pujacs before sliding the puck over to Marian Hossa for an easy tap-in past a helpless Masalskis.

Los Angeles Kings center Michal Handzus put the game out of reach when he intercepted a poor clearing attempt in front of the Latvian goal and roofed it on Masalskis to give the Slovaks a 5-0 edge.

Slovak defender Ivan Baranka added a sixth goal late in the third on a blast from the point to hand the Latvians their second loss in as many days.

Stumpel and Handzus both collected a goal and two helpers in the contest to lead their team in scoring.

Masalskis continued to get minimal support from his players and finished with 31 saves on 37 shots. The keeper has seen his fair share of rubber this tournament as the Latvians have been outshot 120-59 in three games.

Slovakia (1-1-1-0) finishes the preliminary round with a solid five points, but have no chance of getting a bye and will be in the qualification round on Tuesday. Latvia (0-3-0-0) will need a miracle to avoid finishing in last place with no points and a dreadful goal differential of minus-15. 


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