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Sweden Wins, Finland Tied

May 2, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) _ Tommy Salo just had too much experience for Ukraine.

With Sweden ahead by two goals in the second period of Tuesday’s Group A game, the Edmonton Oilers goalie’s team was the target of several cheap shots by the winless Ukrainians.

The strategy failed.

Sweden, Europe’s top hockey nation in the 1990s and the only country to win back-to-back world titles in that period, pounded out a 7-2 win to virtually clinch a second-round berth in the World Hockey Championships.

It was a relief for the Swedes, who made one of their worst showings in this season’s European Hockey Tour, consisting of the premier tournaments in Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia.

The Swedes, who beat Latvia 3-1 in the opener, fell behind 1-0 when Salo conceded a power-play goal by Vasyl Bobrovonikov with only 1:39 gone in the game at St. Petersburg’s brand new, but half-empty Ice Palace.

Michael Nylander of the Chicago Blackhawks, one of Sweden’s seven NHL players, tied it four minutes later on the power play.

Daniel Sedin, who forms hockey’s most talented twins with his brother Henrik, put the Swedes ahead for good with less than two minutes left in the opening period.

Voted the top goalie in the past three world championships, Salo stopped 21 shots for his second win in the tournament.

Kristian Huselius paced Sweden with two goals. Also scoring were Fredrik Modin of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Mikael Hakanson and Bjorn Nord.

In the other Group A game, Aleksandrs Belavskis and Juris Opulskis had two goals apiece as Latvia held off Belarus 6-3 for its first win.

Karlis Skrastins, a defenseman who plays for the Nashville Predators and one of only two NHLers on the Latvian team, had two points with a goal and an assist.

Vladzimir Tsyplakov of the Buffalo Sabres, one of the two Belarussian NHL players, had an assist.

Thanks to sizzling goaltending from Reinhard Divis and a pair of key goals by Christoph Brandner, hockey lightweight Austria held last year’s silver medalist Finland to a shocking 3-3 tie in Group B play.

The draw extended the trend of upsets at the tournament so far, coming only a day after Norway toppled Canada and the United States shut out a Russian team loaded with NHL stars.

``This is sensational,″ said Austrian captain Mario Schaden, who was on last year’s squad that finished 10th. ``We’ve often been close to beating big teams but we always end up losing.

``It’s unbelievable.″

The hard-working Austrians held the Finns scoreless in the opening period, then stunned their opponents by taking a 2-0 lead in the second.

Brandner took Finnish goaltender Vesa Toskala by surprise just 21 seconds into the period, swinging around from behind to stuff the puck into the net. Martin Hohenberger made it 2-0 at 14:06 when his slapshot from the top of the left circle found its way past Toskala.

The Finns, who had shown little sense of urgency until then, finally woke up, with Janne Niinimaa drilling one in from just inside the blue line with only four seconds remaining in the period.

Jukka Hentunen evened the score at 3:25 into the final period, then Finland took a 3-2 lead when five-time Stanley Cup champion Esa Tikkanen scored at 16:37, flicking the puck over Divis’ shoulder.

But with just 47 seconds left to play, Brandner’s slapshot from the top of the right circle knotted the score.

``It was frustrating,″ said Jyrki Lumme of the Phoenix Coyotes. ``We had all the scoring opportunities we needed. We just couldn’t get it to go in.

``But I guess we have to think positively. We did manage to come back from two down.″

In the other Group B game at the Yubileiny Sports Palace, Vlastimil Plavucha and Miroslav Satan each had two goals as Slovakia beat winless Italy 6-2 for its second straight victory and virtually assuring a berth in the second round.

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