SOCHI, RUSSIA – Jaromir Jagr scored his second goal of the Olympics, Jakub Voracek got the tiebreaker in the second period, and the Czech Republic survived an early scare for a 4-2 victory over Latvia on Friday in the Olympic hockey tournament.
Marek Zidlicky had a goal and an assist, and Martin Erat also scored for the Czechs. Ondrej Pavelec made 18 saves in their first win of preliminary-round play, bouncing back from an opening 4-2 loss to Sweden.
The 41-year-old Jagr is a five-time Olympian, but never managed more than two goals in any of his previous trips to the games. He scored two goals in his first four periods in Sochi, and his steady play help the Czechs to hold off Latvia’s upset bid.
Herberts Vasiljevs and Janis Sprukts scored for Latvia, which dropped to 0-2 despite another solid effort against a higher-profile opponent. Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan’s team has just one active NHL player, but the Latvians stood up to the Czechs in a bruising, aggressive game.
Latvia can’t generate enough offense to win, however. Edgars Masalskis stopped 35 shots for Latvia, which lost its Olympic opener 1-0 on a last-minute goal for Switzerland.
Coach Alois Hadamczik gave the Czechs’ second start to Pavelec after Jakub Kovar was chased by Sweden early in the second period of the opener. Pavelec, the Winnipeg Jets’ goalie, is the only NHL netminder on the Czechs’ roster, but he was scratched for the opener.
Jagr put the Czechs ahead 2-1 late in the first period with a vicious wrist shot from the slot during a power play, but Vasiljevs tied it early in the second period after a Czech turnover deep in its own end.
The enthusiastic Czech fans at Bolshoy Ice Dome got nervous, but the Czechs went back ahead on an exceptional play by Voracek, the Philadelphia Flyers forward. Voracek had only one hand on his stick when he deflected Zbynek Michalek’s shot out of the air for his first Olympic goal.
Zidlicky then scored an instant before Latvia’s net was knocked off its moorings, setting off a bitter protest from Masalskis.
Latvia had a 5-on-3 advantage for 57 seconds late in the scoreless third period, but couldn’t get anything going against Pavelec.
The Czech Republic faces Switzerland on Saturday in its final game of preliminary-round play, and Latvia takes on Sweden.