Russia, Finns in Worlds gold-medal game
Sergei Shirokov scored the eventual game-winning goal with two minutes remaining in the first period, Danis Zaripov and Yevgeni Medvedev each had two assists and Russia defeated Sweden 3-1 to advance to the gold-medal game at the 2014 IIHF World Championship in a game played at Minsk Arena.
Russia will face off in the gold-medal game on Sunday against Finland.
Sergei Plotnikov and Anton Belov also scored for Russia after Oscar Moller opened the scoring for Sweden 19 seconds into the game. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets) made 22 saves for Russia and Anders Nilsson (New York Islanders) stopped 31 of 34 shots in a losing effort.
Moller gave Sweden an early lead, but the Russians quickly stormed back, outshooting the Swedes 11-6 in the first period. They eventually tied the game at 13:25 when Plotnikov scored his sixth of the tournament after pouncing on a rebound off a shot by Medvedev.
Shirokov gave Russia the lead 4:35 later on his third goal of the tournament. The eventual winner came after the Russian forward intercepted a neutral-zone pass intended for Gustav Nyquist (Detroit Red Wings).
The Swedes struggled with penalties in the second period. They successfully killed off consecutive minors to Calle Jarnkrok (Nashville Predators) for tripping and Nyquist for slashing, but Russia got an insurance goal shortly thereafter when Belov scored at 11:02, beating Nilsson 15 seconds after Nyquist's minor expired.
Sweden's frustration seemed to boil over in the closing moments of the game when Mikael Backlund (Calgary Flames) received a five-minute charging penalty and a game misconduct after he ran over Plotnikov. The play quickly led to a war of words between the teams.
With the win, Russia will have a chance to win the World Championship for the second time in three years. The Russians won the tournament in 2012 by defeating Slovakia 6-2 in the final.
Sweden, who won the tournament last year, will play for the bronze medal against the Czech Republic on Sunday.
FINLAND 3, CZECH REPUBLIC 0: Jori Lehtera scored twice, Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) made 20 saves for the shutout and Finland defeated the Czech Republic at Minsk Arena to advance to the gold-medal game at the 2014 IIHF World Championship.
Jarkko Immonen also scored for Finland and added an assist; goaltender Alexander Salak stopped 23 of 25 shots for the Czechs.
Finland got the jump on the Czechs early, outshooting them 12-6 in the first period. Lehtera opened the scoring at 8:57 when he took a pass from Juuso Hietanen and fought off Czech defenseman Ondrej Vitasek before lifting a shot past Salak. Finnish captian Olli Jokinen (Winnipeg Jets) was whistled for holding 16 seconds later but the Czechs were not able to capitalize on the power-play opportunity.
Finnish special teams continued to play a crucial role in the second period. The Finns killed off two early second-period minors before the power play scored with defenseman Petr Zamorsky off for high sticking. Immonen scored his third of the tournament on the man advantage at 11:02 after taking a pass in close from Petri Kontiola.
Finland's stifling defense took over from there, with Rinne making the saves when called upon. Lehtera scored his second of the game and third of the tournament into an empty net with 11 seconds remaining in the game.
The winning team at the 2011 Worlds in Slovakia, Finland will face Russia in the final on Sunday. The Russians have steamrolled through the tournament so far, winning every game in regulation and outgunning their opponents by a combined score of 37-8.
The run to the championship game is a pleasant turnaround for a Finnish team that lost three games during the preliminary round, including a 4-2 loss to Russia on May 11.