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Canada to battle Sweden for gold at World Championship

Both teams, featuring five Lightning representatives combined, earned semifinal victories on Saturday

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

A quartet of Tampa Bay Lightning players along with Bolts head coach Jon Cooper will compete Sunday for the gold medal at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

The Cooper-led Team Canada, which also features Lightning forwards Brayden Point and Alex Killorn, defeated Team Russia 4-2 in the early semifinal at Cologne's LANXESS Arena.

Team Sweden, backended by Tampa Bay defensemen Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, took care of Finland 4-1 in the second semifinal to reach Sunday's final.

Canada rallied from a 2-0 deficit, scoring four goals in the third period to come from behind against Russia and reach its third-consecutive World Championship final. The Canadians are also in search of their third straight gold medal at Worlds.

Russia opened scoring at 12:16 of the second period on Evgeny Kuznetsov's first goal of the tournament. The Lightning's Nikita Kucherov had the secondary assist on Russia's opening tally. Kucherov finished the tournament with six goals and eight assists in nine games and currently ranks tied for second in the tourney for scoring behind Russian teammate Artemi Panarin (16 points).

Nikita Gusev made it 2-0 Russia with his power-play marker at 14:50 of the second period.

Canada stormed back to overwhelm Russia over the final 20 minutes. Mark Scheifele got Canada on the board with a power-play goal just 17 seconds in the final period to start the comeback. Nathan MacKinnon leveled the score with 4:53 remaining in regulation.

Ryan O'Reilly's marker 1:51 after MacKinnon tied the game proved to be the game-winning goal for Canada.Sean Couturier added an empty-net insurance goal at 18:53 to seal the semifinal victory for the Canadians.

Canada outshot Russia 19-5 in the decisive third period and 38-28 for the game.

Point recorded two shots and was plus-one in 15:55 of action, and Killorn skated 13:33 in Canada's win.

Kucherov finished with an assist in 14:44 time on ice for Russia. Vladislav Namestnikov had one shot in 5:17, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 34 saves on 37 shots in a losing effort. Vasilevskiy came into Saturday's semifinal with three tournament shutouts, just one shy of tying the tourney record in the modern era.

Namestnikov finished his World Championship experience plus-six through nine games with three goals and two assists.

In the second semifinal, Sweden and Finland were tied 1-1 after the opening period, but the Swedes outclassed their Scandinavian rivals over the final 40 minutes, outscoring Finland 3-0 to advance to their first World Championship final since 2014.

Sweden scored a pair of power-play goals in the second period to take control. John Klingberg netted a goal on the man-advantage 4:36 into the middle frame for the game-winning goal. William Nylander scored on the power play at 14:52 of the second to add to Sweden's lead.

Joakim Nordstrom's tally at 13:52 of the third period sealed the victory for Sweden.

Once again, Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman led Sweden for time on ice (22:40). Hedman had one shot and was plus-one in the victory. Fellow Bolts blueliner Anton Stralman was second among the Swedes for time on ice (22:37) and also was plus-one with one shot.

Sweden and Canada are playing each other in the gold medal game at Worlds for the first time since 2004. The two teams will play the second game on Sunday in Cologne.

Russia will square off against Finland in the early game Sunday for the bronze medal. Russia, the bronze medal winner in 2016, is looking to medal for the fourth-straight year. Finland, last year's silver medalist, is looking for its second-consecutive year with a medal and third medal in the last four years.

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