By Ryan Boulding & Ron Knabenbauer
CZECH REPUBLIC (2) VS. RUSSIA (1) - SHOOTOUT
The Czech Republic tied its second World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament matchup with Russia late in the third period and picked up a 2-1 win in a shootout on Saturday at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.
Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov was in net for the Russians, but he ended up being saddled with the loss despite a tremendous effort. Varlamov made 33 saves on 34 shots, including stopping all six pucks during power plays and two on short-handed chances.
Varlamov is in a goaltending battle with Sergei Bobrovsky and Andrei Vasilevskiy for the starting gig in Russia's crease for when the actual tournament begins next Saturday.
"I don't think right now about what's going to happen next. We'll see who is going to play the next game," Varlamov said to NHL.com. "I'm going to be focusing on my own game that I played today."
Russia could only manage 21 shots on goal. The Czech finished with a 65-49 advantage in total shot attempts.
After two scoreless periods, Nikita Kucherov finally broke through for Team Russia 1:04 into the third. The visitors held the small lead for much of the final stanza until Tomas Plekanec tied the contest for the Czechs with 1:11 left in regulation.
Russia came out strong in the extra session, outshooting the Czech Republic 6-2, but couldn't secure the win.
The Czechs won the shootout 2-1 with Ales Hemsky netting the winner in the third round.
Both teams now head to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for their final pre-tournament contests on Wednesday. Russia will play Canada at 5:30 p.m. MT while the Czech Republic will face Team North America at 1:30 p.m. MT.
SWEDEN (6) VS. FINLAND (3)
Team Sweden scored in bunches early and late to earn a 6-3 win over its Scandinavian rival Finland on Saturday in the second contest of pre-tournament action for the World Cup of Hockey 2016.
Finland had beaten Sweden 3-2 in overtime in their first exhibition on Thursday.
The home crowd at the Scandinavium in Gothenburg had plenty to cheer for early on with Loui Eriksson tallying twice in the first period and Patric Hornqvist giving Sweden a 3-0 lead at 13:55 of the second.
However, Finland closed the gap prior to the second intermission with Rasmus Ristolainen and Mikko Koivu notching goals in the last 3:07 of the middle frame to cut the game to 3-2.
Sweden bounced back in the third period with three markers in the final 8:08 to pull out the victory. Finland also tallied in that time frame as well in what turned out to be a wild finish.
Overall, the Swedes outshot the Finns 29-14.
Avalanche forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Carl Soderberg once again played the majority of the game on the same line, this time with Jakob Silfverberg on their right wing. Landeskog finished the contest with three shots, five hits and a minus-1 rating in 15:03 of ice time, while Soderberg had two shots and ended with a plus-1 rating in 12:06 of ice time.
Sweden will now travel to Washington, D.C., to play Team Europe in its final pre-tournament game on Wednesday at 5 p.m. MT. Finland will face the United States in its last exhibition contest on Tuesday at 5 p.m., also in Washington.
CANADA (5) vs. UNITED STATES (2)
Although it lacked the fervor and bad blood from Friday's contest, Saturday's exhibition rematch between Team Canada and the United States still provided plenty to be excited about.
The Canadians came out victorious in the game, burying three goals-from Logan Couture, John Tavares and Jay Bouwmeester-to Team USA's one-courtesy of Ryan McDonagh-to gobble up a commanding lead that never faltered.
"That was a very similar game to last night… but we converted on our chances early," Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene said after the victory. "That gave us a chance to jump out in front and never look back."
The initial physicality, a holdover from yesterday, began to falter as the contest continued, the back-to-back nature of the game no doubt taking its toll on both squads. Regardless, the Americans made a push to start the middle frame, getting the game within one marker after defenseman John Carlson found twine.
That would be it for the United States, however, as Duchene responded with his first goal of the exhibition period and Tavares potted another in the third to keep the game out of reach.
Duchene admitted that playing two games in as many nights kept things from getting out of control.
"Last night was like a Game 7… but tonight was more like a Game 4," he said.
Avalanche rear guard Erik Johnson skated in his first tuneup match of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, registering two shots, six hits and six blocked shots while logging 17:40 of ice time-including 3:27 while shorthanded.
Johnson, paired most often with Ryan Suter, was both solid in his own end and physical up and down the rink.
Duchene spent the early portion of the game skating alongside Corey Perry and Joe Thornton, but after a series of calls on both clubs, the Avalanche staple found himself paired with Tyler Seguin and Thornton.
Duchene finished the match with the goal and a plus-one rating through 10:59 of playing time.
Team USA finishes the pre-tournament round on Tuesday versus Finland at 5 p.m. MT, and Canada does the same on Wednesday when it faces Russia at 5:30 p.m. MT.