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2006 OLYMPICS: Finland, Slovakia Remain Unbeaten

by Staff Writer / Colorado Avalanche
--Associated Press

Slovakia 2, Kazakhstan 1

Four games, four victories and a rising prominence in world-class hockey. Slovakia has accomplished much so far in the Olympic men's tournament, even if its stars say they have yet to do anything.

Pavol Demitra led a 3-on-1 break to set up Marian Hossa's go-ahead goal in the third period and unbeaten Slovakia played barely well enough to edge winless Kazakhstan 2-1 Sunday in Olympic men's hockey.

Finland 2, Canada 0

Teemu Selanne scored his sixth goal in four games and Finland stayed unbeaten in Olympic round-robin play, beating gold-medal favorite Canada 2-0 Sunday - the Canadians' second shutout loss in as many days.

The flying Finns - and they certainly have been while going 4-0 - overcame Canada's physicality and size advantage with excellent puck movement, transitional play and a strong game in net by Antero Niittymaki, who made 24 saves.

By winning, Finland secured the top spot in Group A and will play the fourth-place team from Group B in the quarterfinals, almost certainly the U.S. (1-2-1), on Wednesday.

Switzerland 2, Germany 2

Tino Boos scored the tying goal in the third period and Germany, ranked below Switzerland in the world rankings, pulled off a surprise 2-2 tie Sunday that followed Swiss upsets of gold medal favorite Canada and the world champion Czech Republic.

The tie assures the Swiss of advancing to the quarterfinals but may have dulled some of their upset-driven momentum.

"Unfortunately, we didn't play as good as we did the previous two games, but we were able to get the point that allows us to go into the quarterfinals," said goalie David Aebischer, who made 26 saves.

Russia 9, Latvia 2

Ilya Kovalchuk scored four times - his first goals of these Olympics - and Russia advanced to the men's hockey final eight with a 9-2 victory over Latvia on Sunday.

After dropping the opener to Slovakia 5-3, Russia has won three straight by a combined score of 15-2.

"I don't think we've played our best hockey yet," said Kovalchuk, who is tied for second in the NHL with 37 goals.

Kovalchuk scored twice in each of the first two periods and took the starch out of the Latvian supporters, who again rocked the arena with drums, horns, bells and whistles.

They were later out by those on the Russian side.

Evgeni Nabokov, with consecutive shutout victories over Sweden and Kazakhstan, was touched for a goal but improved on his perfect record.

Russia's victory put the eight-time Olympic champions into the quarterfinals and clinched a spot for Sweden, too. Slovakia qualified for the next round by beating the U.S. on Saturday, leaving just one spot open in Group B.

Sweden 2, USA 1

Rick DiPietro made 24 saves in his third straight start, but for the second consecutive night the Americans came out on the short end of a 2-1 final Sunday. Sweden's Mikael Samuelsson won the game with a power-play goal in the third period.

Special teams proved to be the difference on both ends, as the U.S. went 0-for-5 on the power play and failed to convert two 5-on-3 advantages that lasted nearly 2 minutes each in the second period.

DiPietro was solid in playing on back-to-back nights. He stood tall in the net, turning aside odd-man rushes, using his adept stickwork to shoot the puck far out of trouble, and stretching to reach pucks sailing toward the goal.

Sweden had just enough offense even without star Peter Forsberg, who rested and watched from the end of the bench one day after returning from a groin injury that forced him to miss the first two games of the tournament.

He is expected to return Tuesday against Slovakia in the final tuneup before the medal round.

"We just wanted to see how it felt after yesterday," Forsberg said. "It feels good, no problem."

Sweden (3-1), Russia and Slovakia, which beat the U.S. 2-1 on Saturday, are already in from Group B.With only one preliminary game remaining, the United States is fourth of six teams and holds a two-point lead over Latvia. The only way for the Americans to be left out would be with a loss to Russia on Tuesday coupled with a Latvian victory over Kazakhstan in which the Latvians scored enough to overcome a double-digit goal differential with the Americans.

Czech Republic 4, Italy 1

Vaclav Prospal scored three goals as the Czech Republic beat Italy 4-1 Sunday to grab a spot in the men's hockey Olympic medal round.

The Czechs welcomed back Jaromir Jagr, the New York Rangers star who leads the NHL in scoring. He played with nine stitches in his forehead and above his left ear after being cut by a vicious check into the boards by Finland's Jarkko Ruutu on Saturday.

Colorado Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk scored midway through the first period, Prospal, of the Tampa Bay Lightning, had his first goals 1:23 later and scored in the second period. Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun made 15 saves for the Czechs (2-2), who had lost two straight.

After Italy's John Parco scored with 2:07 left in the game, Prospal scored an empty-net goal to notch the hat trick.

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