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Belarus beats US 5-2 for 1st time at ice hockey worlds; favourite Czechs, Finland, Sweden win

NHL.com @NHL

PRAGUE - Belarus beat the United States for the first time 5-2 at the ice hockey world championship on Thursday.

Also, the host Czech Republic bounced back from a loss to Canada with a 5-1 win over France for its second victory.

Following five losses to the Americans, Belarus' milestone win in Ostrava was its third in the group stage, and a major step to advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight year.

Belarus tops Group B after four games with 10 points, one ahead of the U.S. and Russia.

The top four teams in each of the two groups of eight will advance to the quarterfinals.

The Czechs are fourth in Group A with seven points. Canada leads with 12, followed by Sweden and Switzerland with eight.

After a scoreless first period between Belarus and the U.S., Artur Gavrus and Artyom Volkov scored 70 seconds apart in the second period, and captain Alexander Kitarov added a third for a commanding 3-0 lead.

It was too much for the Americans to overcome, especially with goaltender Kevin Lalande having a good game making 28 saves, including a big stop in the second to deny Jimmy Vesey on a breakaway.

Brock Nelson finally scored for the U.S. before the end of the second, but a pair in the third by captain Alexei Kalyuzhny, around his two-minute penalty for hooking, sealed Belarus' historic day.

"We had the momentum early and they pushed back through work and discipline," U.S. coach Todd Richards said. "They turned the tide and put us on our heels."

Belarus coach Dave Lewis agreed.

"We did not settle into the game until the second period."

Czech defenceman Ondrej Nemec broke the scoreless deadlock in his game 1:10 into the second period, and added another goal and an assist against France.

"I'm glad we won," Nemec said. "The goals are an extra bonus for me. Our offence was good but there were some mistakes in the defence again, and a better opponent could punish us."

Vladimir Sobotka, Jaromir Jagr, and Roman Cervenka had the other Czech goals.

Kevin Hecquefeuille scored the lone one for France.

Later Thursday, Sweden played Germany in Group A, and Finland faced Slovenia in Group B.

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