Russia tops Finland to capture gold medal
Evgeni Malkin's (Pittsburgh Penguins) goal at 15:38 of the second period snapped a 2-2 tie and helped lead Russia to a 5-2 win against Finland in the gold-medal game of the 2014 IIHF World Championship on Sunday at Minsk Arena in Minsk, Belarus.
Sergei Shirokov, Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Danis Zaripov and Viktor Tikhonov also scored to give Russia its fourth gold in the past seven years at Worlds (2008, 2009, 2012). The Russians also avenged a loss to Finland in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Sochi Olympics and won their fifth gold medal since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.
"It's a different tournament [after the Olympics], but it's great to win it," Russian forward Nikolai Kulyomin told the IIHF website. "We were all coming here to win. The Russian team is always playing to win."
Ovechkin, Russia's captain, finished with four goals and seven assists with a team-high 52 shots on goal in nine games. He sustained a right-leg injury during Russia's preliminary-round game against Germany.
Tikhonov led all scorers in the tournament with eight goals and 16 points. Right behind him was Russian teammates Darius Zaripov (13 points) and Sergei Plotnikov (t-12).
Shirokov opened the scoring at 10:45 of the first period after taking Zaripov's pass from down low, stepping into the left face-off circle and firing a shot past Finnish goalie Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators). The Finns tied it with three seconds left in the first when Jori Lehtera's pass through Russia's defense found Iiro Pakarinen, who beat Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets).
Olli Palola put Finland ahead 2-1 at 6:51 of the second when he gathered a rebound of Jarkko Immonen's shot and put one past Bobrovsky on the stick side. Ovechkin answered less than a minute later after taking a pass from Vadim Shipachyov and backhanding it past a diving Rinne to tie the game at 2-2 at 7:34 of the second.
Zaripov pushed Russia's lead to 4-2 4:24 into the third and Tikhonov completed the scoring with a power-play goal at 15:53.
Rinne, voted tournament MVP and named to the all-star team, made 34 saves for Finland, whose silver medal follows a bronze-medal showing at the Olympics and a gold-medal performance at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden, in January.
"Rinne was great all tournament and kept us in the game tonight with his play," Immonen told the IIHF website. "He carried us on his shoulders."
Bobrovsky countered with 24 saves for Russia, who played without coach Oleg Znarok after he was suspended for making an unsportsmanlike gesture toward Sweden's bench in a 3-1 semifinal win Saturday. Assistant coach Harijs Vitolins, currently coach of Dynamo Moscow, took over in Znarok's absence.
Russia will defend its title at the 2015 IIHF World Championship next May in the Czech Republic. Prague and Ostrava will be the host cities.
Sweden 3, Czech Republic 0: Sweden received goals from Joakim Lindstrom, Simon Hjalmarsson and Mikael Backlund (Calgary Flames) on Sunday at Minsk Arena in Minsk, Belarus, to capture the bronze medal at the 2014 IIHF World Championship.
The Czech's loss also ended Jaromir Jagr's international career. The New Jersey Devils forward announced that he's played his final game for the Czech national team. He will, however, return to the Devils for the 2014-15 regular season.
"This was for sure the last one," Jagr said. "It's not that I would think I'm not good enough for it. But this is a different hockey than I play. My hockey doesn't fit this style."
Sweden settled for the third-place game after a 3-1 loss to Russia on Saturday.
"It feels like a successful tournament even though we lost in the semifinal," Swedish forward Oscar Moller told the IIHF website. "We're going home with medals so we're really happy about that."
Swedish goalie Anders Nilsson (New York Islanders) stopped all 29 shots to hand the Czech Republic its second consecutive shutout loss. The Czechs were blanked 3-0 by Finland on Saturday.
"He's been phenomenal, not just [Sunday], but the whole tournament," Lindstrom said. "From game one, he's been our backbone on this hockey team."
Lindstrom opened the scoring at 4:28 of the first period when a pass intended for Moller in the slot was deflected by Czech defenseman Petr Zamorsky and past Czech goalie Alexander Salak.
The Czechs soon had a chance to tie the game while on the power play when Jagr corralled a rebound off a shot from Jakub Klepis, but shot it wide. Sweden would capitalize at 15:44 with Hjalmarsson's one-timer that completed tic-tac-toe passing from Mattias Ekholm and Nicklas Danielsson.
After a scoreless second period, Backlund received a backhand pass from defenseman Erik Gustafsson (Philadelphia Flyers) and beat Salak from just beyond the face-off spot at 8:22 of the third.