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Russia beats U.S., will face Canada for gold at Worlds

by Staff

Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) had a goal and an assist in a four-goal third period that carried defending champion Russia past the United States 4-0 on Saturday in the second semifinal game at the 2015 IIHF World Championship at 02 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.

Russia will play Canada in the gold-medal game Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN). Canada remained unbeaten in the tournament by defeating the Czech Republic 2-0 in the first semifinal at O2 Arena. The Czech Republic and the U.S. will play for the bronze medal at 10:15 a.m. ET on Sunday.

"It's always great in a final when Russia and Canada play," Russian captain Ilya Kovalchuk told the IIHF website. "It will be very interesting. I think it will be a very exciting game. I'm excited."

The U.S., which defeated Russia 4-2 in a preliminary-round game, hasn't won the gold medal at the Worlds since 1933 and hasn't won a medal of any kind since capturing the bronze in 2013.

"I think we really want to play [for bronze]," said U.S. goalie Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg Jets). "Any medal is a good medal. We want to make our country proud and get bronze."

The star-laden Russian roster was augmented by the addition of Ovechkin, who joined the team after the Capitals were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the New York Rangers on Wednesday. But the young, inexperienced U.S. team played Russia to a scoreless tie until Sergei Mozyakin beat Hellebuyck, who spent the season with the St. John's IceCaps of the American Hockey League, with a wrist shot from the slot at 7:17 of the third period.

Ovechkin capitalized on a giveaway by U.S. defenseman Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes) and scored an unassisted goal at 10:19, Vadim Shipachyov banged in a rebound to make it 3-0 at 15:28, and Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins), assisted by Ovechkin, scored into the empty net with 1:25 remaining.

Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets) made 35 saves for the shutout.

"It's clear that [Bobrovsky] is one of the best goalies at the moment," Ovechkin said, according to the IIHF website. "It's almost impossible to score on him, and today he showed his mastery and his class. He's one of the best goalies in the world."

In the first semifinal, Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers) and Jason Spezza (Dallas Stars) each scored and Mike Smith (Arizona Coyotes) made 23 saves to help Canada win for the ninth time in as many games in the tournament and move within one victory of its first World Championship title since 2007.

Hall opened the scoring 8:40 into the first period. Sidney Crosby (Penguins) sent Jordan Eberle (Oilers) in on a partial breakaway. With a Czech backchecker closing in on him and goalie Ondrej Pavelec (Jets) squaring up to face the shot, Eberle passed the puck at the last instant to Hall, who shot it in the open left side of the net.

Spezza doubled the lead 9:02 into the second, scoring off the rush with assists by Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche) and Dan Hamhuis (Vancouver Canucks).

"We said before that we can't score our way out of wins," Spezza told the IIHF website. "Some nights we have to defend our way to wins. Tonight after we got the two goals we sat back, defended, and kept them to the outside."

Pavelec made 39 saves and was named player of the game for Czech Republic, which was bidding to win gold for the first time since 2010.

Czech defenseman Michal Jordan (Hurricanes) had a goal disallowed late in the second period because it was ruled teammate Petr Koukal was in the crease at the time.

"When they scored to make it 2-0 it took the air from us," Jordan said. "If we had scored earlier, it might be a different game."

Jaromir Jagr (Florida Panthers) has six goals in the tournament, but like the rest of the Czech players he was shut out Saturday.

"[Jagr] is definitely a key part of their team," Canada forward Ryan O'Reilly (Avalanche) said. "We kept him on the outside. That was a key part of our tactic. But he's a talented player and a couple of times he had us back on our heels a bit. All five of our guys in our own end were working hard to make sure they couldn't get him the puck so much."

Canada lost to Russia in the gold-medal game in 2008 and 2009 after defeating Finland in 2007 for its most recent World Championship title. Canada won gold at the Worlds five times between 1994 and 2007; before that, it hadn't finished first since 1961.

A Canadian victory Sunday would make Crosby the 26th player (along with one coach, Mike Babcock) to enter the Triple Gold club, whose members have won a Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medal and a World Championship.

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