Russians earn trip to worlds final and date with Canadians

 

The Russians did their part to set up the dream final; the first ever gold-medal game between Canada and Russia in the first world hockey championship held in the sport’s birthplace. Canada followed suit with a 5-4 win Friday night over Sweden.

 
 
 
 

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QUEBEC — The Russians did their part to set up the dream final; the first ever gold-medal game between Canada and Russia in the first world hockey championship held in the sport’s birthplace. Canada followed suit with a 5-4 win Friday night over Sweden.

Earlier in the day, the slick red machine put on a puck possession show against Finland and shut out their bitter rivals 4-0 in the afternoon semifinal at Le Colisee in Quebec City. A less than capacity crowd of 11,159 showed up.

San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov collected the 23-save shutout for Russia and barely broke a sweat as a Finnish offence that sputtered through the first seven games of the tournament failed to deliver once again. Head coach Doug Shedden pulled goalie Niklas Backstrom with 2:41 left and Russia iced the puck twice before Maxim Sushinskiy iced the game with an empty-netter at 17:56.

The 8-0 Russians look capable of scoring in bunches, if need be. And the first Russian goal was a thing of beauty as their dandy Alexanders, Ovechkin and Semin, teamed up on a lethal three-on-one with linemate Sergei Fedorov, who finished the slick, four-pass play into Backstrom’s net.

The Finns outshot Russia 9-5 in the opening 20 minutes and Nabokov didn’t look all that sharp handling the puck, but he got some luck and came up large on Finland’s best chance. Riku Hahl, who has yet to register a point in the tournament, showed why at the 6:30 mark, missing a wide-open cage after Nabokov flubbed an attempt to catch a Finnish dump-in. Nabokov also robbed Jussi Jokinen on the edge of the crease 15 minutes in to preserve the Russian lead.

There was more to come in the second period, as a lesser-known trio hooked up on a three-way passing play. Danis Zaripov finished it into a yawning cage after wheeling and dealing with Andrei Markov and Sergei Zinoviev.

The Finns needed a third-period goal to make it interesting, but registered only six shots through the first half of the frame and never threatened to break Nabokov’s shutout.

They obviously didn’t have enough manpower to take on the Russians for most of the game, but were given back-to-back penalties for too many men on the ice late in the third period. Alexei Morozov made them pay for the second inconceivable sin by firing a shot from the faceoff dot past Backstrom to make it 3-0 and end what little suspense there was at the time.

The Russian win avenges a semifinal shootout loss to the Finns at last year’s worlds in Moscow.
 
 
 
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