Canada, Russia advance to ice hockey worlds final
PRAGUE (AP) — Four final-period goals propelled defending champion Russia past the United States 4-0 in the semifinals of the ice hockey world championship on Saturday and set up a final with Canada.
Canada also enjoyed a blanking, 2-0 over the host Czech Republic.
The finalists are by far the most decorated in world championship history, with Russia (and the Soviet Union) having won 27 finals, and Canada 24. Sunday will make their first final in six years.
The Russia-U.S. semi was scoreless until more than seven minutes into the final frame, when Sergei Mozyakin wristed a shot over goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
Alex Ovechkin, making his first appearance in the tournament following the end of his NHL playoffs run, found space in between the goalie’s pads three minutes later and added an assist.
“The first couple of periods I didn’t feel really well,” said Ovechkin who arrived in Prague on Friday. “In the third, my legs started working. Tomorrow’s gonna be final. It’s gonna be fun, an interesting game.”
Vadim Schipachyov made it 3-0, and Evgeni Malkin finished off the Americans with 1:25 to go into an empty net.
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 saves.
“It was a great hockey game, tight, played tough by both sides,” U.S. captain Matt Hendricks said. “We just weren’t able to crack Bobrovsky tonight.”
Russia will seek its third title in four years.
Earlier, Taylor Hall and Jason Spezza scored for Canada, which hasn’t won the title since 2007.
“At this point, everyone’s mind is on winning,” Canada captain Sidney Crosby said. “Hopefully, we can finish it off.”
With yet another attacking display, Canada outshot the Czechs 41-23, and goaltender Mike Smith made some big saves for his second shutout.
“They had some opportunities, especially early, and generated some good chances,” said Crosby, who had one assist. “Today’s was a good test for us, a big challenge.”
The Crosby-led Canadians have been dominating the tournament with a perfect record of nine wins from nine games, and 60 goals.
Left winger Hall scored 8:40 in after Jordan Eberle’s pass from the right found him in front of the empty net, with goaltender Ondrej Pavelec unable to reach the puck.
“It was a big goal for the team, to silence the crowd,” Hall said. “At this point of the tournament, we know how we have to play no matter who the opponent is.”
Spezza wristed a shot through a defenseman’s legs past Pavelec to stretch the lead 9:02 into the second. He tops the scoring chart with 14 points, from six goals and eight assists.
Canada also beat the host team in the group stage, 6-3 while Russia bounced back from a 4-2 defeat by the U.S. in their group.
With 1:33 to go in the second, the Czechs had a goal by defenseman Michal Jordan disallowed after the referees ruled forward Petr Koukal was in the crease. A video replay didn’t seem to confirm that.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Czech veteran Jaromir Jagr said. “We went after them as we wanted to but we didn’t score a goal in the first 10-15 minutes.”