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by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes

Czechs edge Russia 4-3 in OT
to reach semifinals at world hockey championship

RIGA, Latvia (AP) - Zbynek Irgl scored 7:58 into overtime to give the defending champion Czech Republic a 4-3 victory over Russia in the quarter-finals at the IIHF world hockey championship Thursday.

The Czechs will play the winner of Thursday's late quarter-final between tournament surprise Belarus and Olympic runner-up Finland. Olympic champion Sweden plays Canada in Saturday's other semifinal.

Russia, which has not won a world title since 1993, looked stronger early in the overtime session, when both teams played with four skaters.

But Czech goalie Milan Hnilicka stopped everything.

The game-winner was a gem. David Vyborny won a faceoff in the Russian end, then fed the unchecked Irgl with a perfect pass near the goal. Irgl deked Maxim Sokolov, then swept a backhander past the Russian goalie from a tough angle.

Russia's Alexei Mikhnov forced the overtime by knocking in a rebound past Hnilicka with 1:05 left in regulation.

Eleven seconds earlier, Russia had pulled Sokolov for an extra attacker. The gamble paid off. The Russians won the crucial faceoff in the Czech zone, Hnilicka gave up a rebound off Vitali Atyushov's shot and Mikhnov scored, the puck hitting the right post before bouncing in.

It was the second straight game in which Mikhnov notched a late equalizer. He scored against Sweden in their second-round finale.

Alexander Ovechkin, one of the NHL's top rookies this season with the Washington Capitals, gave Russia a 1-0 lead at just 2:30 - his sixth goal in the tournament.

Tomas Kaberle of the Toronto Maple Leafs tied it with a power-play goal early in the second period.

Jaroslav Hlinka notched another power-play goal to give the Czechs a 2-1 lead at 3:49 of the third. Sergei Mozyakin evened the score 1:11 later, scoring past Hnilicka.

With the Russians playing short-handed again, Patrik Stefan of the Atlanta Thrashers put the Czechs ahead one more time at 7:06, connecting with a low shot.

NOTES:  Phoenix Coyotes Defenseman Zbynek Michalek registered six shots-on-goal and recorded two penalty minutes in Thursday's win.

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