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Gavrus, Belarus surprise U.S. at worlds

by Staff Writer / New Jersey Devils

Artur Gavrus celebrates Belarus's upending of the United States at the worlds on Thursday. (Photo: Getty Images)

This was a first for Belarus, something they had never accomplished in 15 years at the world championships.

But beating the United States, 5-2, on Thursday didn’t just mark the Belarusians’ first-ever triumph over Team USA at the IIHF World Championship. It also moved them into first place in Group B with 10 points, one ahead of both the U.S., Russia and Finland.

The Americans, who were bidding for their first four-game winning streak to start the worlds since 1939, had won all five previous meetings with Belarus at the worlds.

Devils' prospect Artur Gavrus scored his second goal of the tournament, picking up his fourth point (2g-2a) in as many games and helping to spark the underdogs to their third win. Only Slovakia has solved the Belarusians, and that required overtime last Sunday.

Gavrus opened the scoring midway through the second period with the first of three goals in under five minutes for Belarus, which jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the U.S. answered.

Kevin Lalande made 28 saves for Belarus, which was outshot 30-23.

Gavrus has scored in back-to-back games and is tied for third on the team in points, behind Andrei Kostitsyn (1g-6a-7pts) and Alexei Kalyuzhny (3g-3a-6pts). He was the Devils’ sixth-round selection in 2012 and has spent the past two seasons with Dynamo Minsk of the KHL.

The top spot in Group B could be on the line again Saturday when Belarus takes on Russia at CEZ Arena in Ostrava. The Russians toppled Denmark, 5-2, on Wednesday.

• Tuomo Ruutu picked up his first point of the worlds with an assist in Finland's 4-0 win over Slovenia on Thursday.

Ruutu set up Joonas Kemppainen's power-play goal in the second period gave the Finns their four-goal advantage. Pekka Rinne needed just 13 saves to register his third straight shutout for Finland, which has won three in a row since dropping its tournament opener to the United States.

The Finns moved within one point of first-place Belarus in Group B and face Slovakia on Saturday.

• Jacob Josefson and Sweden topped Germany, 4-3, in Thursday's Group A play. Josefson, who has three points (1g-2a) in five games, registered one shot in 7:01 of ice time.

With 11 points, Sweden is one behind Canada for first place in Group A. The Swedes take on Switzerland on Saturday.

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