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Finland, Russia, Canada, Sweden advance at Worlds

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks

Teemu Selanne and Team Finland were able to defeat Robert Esche and Team USA, 3-2, for a second time at the Worlds.

Teemu Selanne NHL video highlights 
To beat the Americans again -- only days removed from a controversial 3-2 win in the qualifying round -- Team Finland knew it would have to play a near-perfect game in Wednesday night's quarterfinal.

It was the "near" in perfect that just about cost Finland its berth in the semifinals.

The Americans, down by two goals in the third period and pressing furiously for the within-one and game-tying goals, scored both in under a minute. Phil Kessel scored on a rebound off a shot by Tim Gleason to cut the lead in half before Drew Stafford locked the score at 2-2.

In the overtime period, the Finns survived two close-call chances by American forwards Zach Parise and Dustin Brown less than seven minutes into the period before Sami Lepisto stopped the American comeback in its tracks and advanced the Finns onward and upward to Friday's date with Team Russia.

"We knew we were one shot away from having a hero," said Finnish forward Esa Pirnes of his team's chances in overtime. "This was a game we knew we could win."

Finnish forward Teemu Selanne was also proud of his team's effort.

"I think we only played one bad minute the whole game," he said. "We dominated and were in control and believed we deserved to win."

On the other side of the coin, a young American team earned valuable experience playing together and playing in international competition, which Parise believes will show up in future tournaments.

"We have a lot of good, young players and I think this will be very good for us in the future," he said.

Russia blanks Swiss --
It can be hard enough defeating Russia, even when you play a mistake-free game. But when two mistakes turn into goals -- scored by your own players -- less than 10 minutes into the first period, hard enough can become downright impossible.

Such was the case Wednesday when Swiss defensemen Raphael Diaz and Philippe Furrer each put pucks behind the Swiss netminder Martin Gerber in the opening seven minutes in a 6-0 loss to Russia.

"We needed to have a tight game to make it a game and it didn't happen," said Swiss coach Ralph Krueger. "A crazy set of circumstances put us in a hole we couldn't get out of."

The Russians cruised the remainder of the game, allowing their skill to take over and dominate the Swiss. But the game was not without its ugliness, as Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk reacted to a questionable hit by Julien Vauclair with an ugly hit of his own on Vauclair, earning a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct.

With his second misconduct of the tournament, Kovalchuk will now miss his team's semifinal matchup against Finland with an automatic one-game suspension.

Russian goalie Evgeni Nabokov recorded 22 saves in the shutout, but knows that things will only get more difficult, beginning Friday against the Finns.

"It'll be way harder than this game," he said. "They're more skilled, they're more physical. They have a great power play. They have everything."

Canada rips Norway -- Team Norway allowed 20 goals in five games played in the qualifying round, but only two of those to the high-powered Canadian offense, which lead the tournament with 30 goals-for heading into Wednesday's quarterfinal matchup, an eventual 8-2 Canadian win.

For almost half the game it appeared the Norwegian checkers would have Canada's number once again. Deep into the second period, the score was deadlocked at two apiece as Canada was finding it difficult to earn open ice and Norway was bunkered down and waiting for Canadian mistakes.

"Once again, they held on tough," said Canadian goalie Cam Ward, who made 22 saves. "Up until the middle of the second period, they gave us a little bit of a scare."

But the Canadian offense woke up, and the defending champions scored six times in the final 30 minutes to earn their spot in the semifinal. Canadian center Derek Roy broke the game open with two goals in 2:42 to open a 5-2 lead in the game. He finished the game with a hat trick and four points overall.

The offensive outburst proved to be too much for the Norwegians to overcome.

"They got three fast goals there," said Norwegian goalie Pal Grotnes. "Then it was over."

Also scoring for Canada was Jonathan Toews and Dany Heatley, who is the tournament's leading scorer with 10 goals and 16 points through seven games. Rick Nash scored twice.
The Canadians will face Team Sweden in Friday's second game.

Sweden nips Czech Republic -- Not many teams in this tournament could survive the loss of such high-caliber players as Nick Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Peter Forsberg, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson and others, but Team Sweden has been doing a fine job of relying on what it has, instead of worrying about what it doesn't have.

The Swedes continued that trend with a gutsy 3-2 overtime defeat of a strong Czech Republic team, advancing to a semifinal berth with host Canada on Friday night.

The Swedes have already achieved success that few though possible, with their depleted team and the notable absences of some of the country's finest hockey players.

"It was a tough situation -- a lot of guys said no thanks," said Anton Stralman, a Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman. "There's nothing you can do about that. But it's good to show everyone they were wrong. We have a good group of players who play back in Sweden, so it's good to feel that confidence in the group and to show everyone what we can do out there."

Mattias Weinhandl scored his fifth goal and team-leading 11th point to lift the Swedes into the semis only 3:15 into overtime.

It is Team Sweden's eighth-consecutive trip to the final four, and their second consecutive matchup with the Canadians, who defeated Team Sweden in last year's tournament by a 4-1 margin on the way to claiming gold.

The Swedes are looking forward to the matchup.

"It will be a lot of fun to play Canada," said Stralman. "Home ice, big favorite for a gold medal. So we're going to go out and give them a good fight."

They also know that they have their work cut out for them.

"To play Canada at home -- it's one of the biggest challenges you can have," said forward Rickard Wallin. "We have, in my opinion, the best goaltender in the tournament and we have some big bodies on defense.

"So the key for us is to play good defense and hopefully take advantage of the opportunities we get."

News and Notes --
Dany Heatley continues to pad his all-time Canadian World Championships scoring record. With three more points in Canada's 8-2 win against Norway, the young forward now has 16 points through seven games, leading the tournament in goals and points. … Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller, who performed admirably for the Ducks in the stretch run of the 2007-08 regular season -- when regular starter J.S. Giguere was battling injuries -- came in of relief of Martin Gerber against the Russians and allowed only one goal on 16 shots. … The line of Ryan Getzlaf, Heatley and Rick Nash has been too much for opposing players to handle in this tournament, as the high-flying trio has scored 17 goals and 39 points through seven games. … Czech defenseman Tomas Kaberle leads all World Championship defensive scoring with one goal and 10 points in seven games. … Alexander Ovechkin is tied for second in the tournament in scoring with Czech forward Patrik Elias and Swedish forward Patric Hornqvist with six goals each in seven games. … The Finns don't have a scorer in the top 10 -- in fact their top overall scorer, Mikko Koivu, sits 18th overall on the tournament's top scorers list -- but they will be playing in the semifinal against Russia based on a team-wide attack and a commitment to defense. … Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green is the highest-remaining defensive scorer in the tournament, with three goals and eight points in seven games played.

Author: Brad Holland | Staff Writer

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