Tomas Plekanec banked a backhander off Connor Hellebuyck’s pads with just over eight minutes remaining and the Czech Republic held off Team North America 3-2 in a World Cup of Hockey exhibition game Wednesday.
North America — comprised of players 23 and under — overcame a 2-0 deficit to tie it midway through the third period on goals by Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere and Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews against Petr Mrazek.
Plekanec answered 53 seconds after Matthews’ goal by taking a feed from Ales Hemsky from behind the net and knocking it off Hellebuyck’s leg and over the goal line for his third goal in as many exhibition games.
Ondrej Palat and Radek Faska also scored for the Czech Republic. Mrazek stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced after coming in for Michal Neuvirth at the game’s midway point.
Matthew Murray, who helped the Pittsburgh Penguins to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup last spring, made 16 saves for North America before being replaced by Hellebuyck.
The eight-team tournament begins Saturday in Toronto. The Czech Republic opens Saturday night against Canada. North America faces Finland on Sunday.