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Leafs Players Take Home Silver And Bronze

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

COLOGNE, Germany -- Jaromir Jagr found some new Czech teammates to celebrate a gold medal with.

The veteran forward set up Jakub Klepis just 20 seconds into Sunday's game and Tomas Vokoun turned aside 35 shots as the Czech Republic captured the IIHF World Hockey Championship with a stunning 2-1 win over Russia.

Jagr expressed concern at the outset of the tournament that the country could be a candidate for relegation because so many NHL players declined an invitation. Not only did the unherladed team go on to win gold, it did so by handing star-studded Russia its first loss in 28 world championship games.

No one could have seen this coming for a Czech hockey program that had seen its men's national team lose in the quarter-finals of the last four major international tournaments, including the Vancouver Olympics.

Klepis and captain Tomas Rolinek had goals for the Czechs.

Pavel Datsyuk ended Vokoun's shutout by scoring with 35.3 seconds left in regulation for Russia.

A Russian roster that featured Alex Oveckin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Datsyuk and Sergei Gonchar - they skated together on the power play - were held off the scoresheet for most of the night. The Czech roster featured just four NHL players.

Jagr's other gold medal from this event came in 2005, when the Czechs beat Canada 3-0 in the final game. He and Vokoun were the only members of that team to win again here.

The Russians were carrying eight players who were looking to make it three straight world championship golds and 14 guys who played on the Olympic team that made a quarter-final exit in Vancouver.

When the Czechs and Russians met at the Games, Ovechkin famously flattened Jagr with an open-ice hit that turned into a Russian goal. On Sunday, Jagr shoved Ovechkin after the opening faceoff and then did something even more painful - set up Klepis to open the scoring.

The veteran forward found his teammate with a lovely pass in the high slot to make it 1-0 just 20 seconds into the game.

That quickly ratcheted up the pace of the game and the Russians attacked in waves. Vokoun stretched across his crease to deny Maxim Afinogenov before Sergei Fedorov rang a shot off the post. Datsyuk appeared to tie the game late in the first period but video replay showed that his shot didn't cross the goal-line until after the buzzer had sounded.

The Czechs seemed to get all the bounces while reeling off five straight victories to finish the tournament, and the final was no different. Ovechkin and Fedorov accidentally collided just moments before Rolinek saw Karel Rachunek's pass go in off his skate to make it 2-0 at 18:13 of the second period.

Russia hurt its chances of mounting a comeback by getting frustrated in the final 10 minutes.

Alexei Tereschenko elbowed Petr Koukal with an open-ice hit that went unpenalized just moments before Alexei Emelin was given a clipping major and game misconduct for going low to take out Jagr. He hobbled to the bench.

However, the 38-year-old who plays in the domestic Russian domestic league soon got the sweetest revenge possible by lifting the world championship trophy.

In the bronze-medal game, Sweden was more than happy to spoil the party with another big partisan crowd at Lanxess Arena to support the host Germans.

Jonas Andersson scored from a bad angle early in the third period and added an empty netter as Sweden claimed its second straight bronze with a 3-1 victory over the Germans.

Edmonton Oilers prospect Magnus Pajaarvi Svensson also scored for Sweden, which got 20 saves from Jonas Gustavsson of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Alexander Barta replied for Germany.

The Swedes liked playing in front of a noisy crowd.

``It's better that it's lots of fans cheering for the other team than no fans,'' said Gustavsson. ``I think it was the perfect match to play against Germany in this sort of game. If you played some other team, maybe it's not going to be so much a big crowd.

``It was good, I liked the atmosphere in this building. I had a good time.''

The Germans were one of the top stories of the tournament. They finished 15th at last year's world championship and would have been relegated had they not been hosting this event.

Buoyed by the support of the home fans, they had a fantastic run here and placed fourth _ their best finish at this tournament in 72 years. The players experienced some mixed feelings after skating off the ice to a standing ovation.

``I think everybody on the team is disappointed because we were so close to a medal,'' said forward Marcel Goc. ``It's tough right now, but I think it'll give a push to German ice hockey. When we look back on this in a few days or weeks, we'll realize what we did here.''

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