Czechs hold off Slovaks to reach quarterfinals

Sochi, Russia ( - Roman Cervenka scored two goals to help send the Czech Republic to the quarterfinals with a 5-3 win over late-charging Slovakia Tuesday at the Sochi Olympics.

With a lead that grew to four goals late in the second period, the Czechs probably didn't expect to need an empty-net goal from Tomas Plekanec to seal what appeared to be a runaway victory.

Marian Hossa keyed the Slovak comeback with two goals, and Tomas Surovy closed the gap to 4-3 with 11:09 to play in the third period.

Slovakia continued to push for the equalizer, forcing Czech goaltender Ondrej Pavelec to make critical saves, but defenseman Andrej Meszaros committed a slashing penalty to thwart a Czech odd-man rush with 52.2 seconds left.

Plekanec lit the lamp with 38.7 to go, as the Czechs advanced to play the United States on Wednesday.

Cervenka's first strike came during a three-goal opening period that represented an offensive explosion for a club that averaged two goals per game while going 1-2 in the preliminary round.

David Krejci and Ales Hemsky also scored for the Czechs. Tomas Kaberle posted two assists and Pavelec stopped 29 shots.

Third-string goaltender Jan Laco made 24 saves for the Slovaks, who finished winless in the Winter Games.

Hossa put Slovakia on the board with 1:03 remaining in the second. He and Surovy then scored 1:31 apart to make things interesting.

Pavelec directed a rebound right onto Hossa's stick and he buried the puck at 7:20. The Slovaks then caught the Czechs in a line change and Surovy hammered Milan Bartovic's pass, beating Pavelec on the glove side with a slap shot from the high slot at 8:51.

The Czechs grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals separated by 29 seconds.

Hemsky scored 15 seconds into a power play. After a point shot created a scramble in front of Laco, Hemsky took a pass off his skate in the slot and fired a shot into the far side of the net at 6:53 of the first.

Cervenka then ripped a backhander over a prone Laco seconds after Plekanec had struck the post with his backhand attempt.

A one-time blast by Krejci on a power play made it 3-0 with 2:57 left.

Cervenka extended the lead to 4-0 when he stole the puck in the neutral zone, deked and roofed a backhander from a sharp angle on a breakaway with 4:19 to play in the middle stanza.