Czech Republic scored an important 4-2 win over Latvia during the second round of men's ice hockey matches at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The Sochi crowd were treated to a strategic, yet fiery affair at the Shayba Arena that saw two of the first-round losers compete in a crucial Group C encounter.
Latvia began with an early two-minute penalty, as Sandis Ozolins exited the ice for high sticking.
The Czechs were unable to score with the advantage but notched the first goal of the match after David Krejci and Ales Hemsky worked hard to assist Martin Erat.
Martin Hanzal then received a penalty for tripping. With the advantage showing, Janis Sprukts levelled for the Latvians deep into the first period, scoring their first goal of the tournament, as noted by the NHL:
It's a power play goal for Latvia! CZE-LAT 1-1 as the Latvians score their first goal of the tournament.— NHL (@NHL) February 14, 2014
Hanzal was dismissed again shortly after the goal, once again for trying to unbalance his opponent.
Mikelis Redlihs followed Hanzal's lead and suffered a penalty shortly after the equaliser. This time, Czech Republic made the most of their numbers with a goal from Jaromir Jagr.
Latvia punished their opponents shortly after the interval, pulling the puck away from the Czech corner in a moment of sloppiness from those in possession. Herberts Vasiljevs planted his shot into the top left of the net, shortly before Czech Republic missed a decent chance to go ahead again.
Jakub Voracek did restore the lead with a smart deflection from Zybnek Michalek's drive. Tempers flared from here, and after a minor scuffle, Marek Zidlicky bashed into Latvia's goal as he made the score 4-2 at the end of the second period.
This turned out to be the last score of the game. The Czechs continued to dominate, although Latvia's continued effort and willingness to battle should be commended. As noted by the NHL, the victors pressured to increase the scoreline on a regular basis:
CZE-LAT: almost halfway through the third period, shots on goal are 36-17. pic.twitter.com/bmRWAnmfBi— NHL (@NHL) February 14, 2014
The Czechs will be extremely pleased to follow their opening loss with a hard-fought win. This was by no means an easy match, and they were certainly tested throughout, but they need to be increasingly ruthless during the Feb. 15 encounter with Switzerland.
For Latvia, the second loss in two matches all but ends their hopes of progressing through the competition. Sweden are up next, signalling things aren't going to get any easier for the underdog nation.