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Russia to meet Finns in gold-medal game at Worlds @NHLdotcom

Sergei Shirokov scored the eventual game-winning goal with two minutes remaining in the first period, Danis Zaripov and Yevgeni Medvedev each had two assists and Russia defeated Sweden 3-1 to advance to the gold-medal game at the 2014 IIHF World Championship in a game played at Minsk Arena.

Russia will face off in the gold-medal game on Sunday against Finland, a 3-0 winner against the Czech Republic in the second semifinal.

Sergei Plotnikov and Anton Belov also scored for Russia after Oscar Moller opened the scoring for Sweden 19 seconds into the game. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets) made 22 saves for Russia and Anders Nilsson (New York Islanders) stopped 31 of 34 shots in a losing effort.

Moller gave Sweden an early lead, but the Russians quickly stormed back, outshooting the Swedes 11-6 in the first period. They tied the game at 13:25 when Plotnikov scored his sixth of the tournament after pouncing on a rebound off a shot by Medvedev.

Shirokov gave Russia the lead 4:35 later on his third goal of the tournament. The eventual winner came after the Russian forward intercepted a neutral-zone pass intended for Gustav Nyquist (Detroit Red Wings).

The Swedes struggled with penalties in the second period. They successfully killed off consecutive minors to Calle Jarnkrok (Nashville Predators) for tripping and Nyquist for slashing, but Russia got an insurance goal shortly thereafter when Belov scored at 11:02, beating Nilsson 15 seconds after Nyquist's minor expired.

Sweden's frustration seemed to boil over in the closing moments of the game when Mikael Backlund (Calgary Flames) received a five-minute charging penalty and a game misconduct after he ran over Plotnikov. The play quickly led to a war of words between the teams.

With the win, Russia will have a chance to win the World Championship for the second time in three years. The Russians won the tournament in 2012 by defeating Slovakia 6-2 in the final.

Sweden, which won the tournament last year, will play for the bronze medal against the Czech Republic on Sunday.

In the second semifinal, Jori Lehtera scored twice, Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) made 20 saves for the shutout and Finland defeated the Czech Republic at Minsk Arena to advance to the gold-medal game.

Jarkko Immonen had a goal and an assist for Finland, which got the jump on the Czechs early, outshooting them 12-6 in the first period. Lehtera opened the scoring at 8:57 when he took a pass from Juuso Hietanen and fought off Czech defenseman Ondrej Vitasek before lifting a shot past goaltender Alexander Salak.

Finnish captian Olli Jokinen (Winnipeg Jets) was whistled for holding 16 seconds later but the Czechs were not able to capitalize on the power-play opportunity.

Finland's special teams continued to play a crucial role in the second period. The Finns killed off two early minors before the power play produced the second goal. With Czech defenseman Petr Zamorsky off for high sticking. Immonen scored his third of the tournament at 11:02 after taking a pass in close from Petri Kontiola.

Finland's stifling defense took over from there, with Rinne making the saves when called upon. Lehtera scored his second of the game and third of the tournament into an empty net with 11 seconds remaining in the game.

"Tonight was a perfect game and everything was under control," Kontiola told the IIHF website. "We have to stay out of the penalty box, especially against Russia."

Salak stopped 23 of 25 shots for the Czechs

Finland, which won the 2011 tournament in Slovakia, will face a Russian team that has won every game in regulation and outscored its opponents by a combined total of 37-8.

"I'm really excited with the opportunity and what we've accomplished so far," Rinne said. "Let's see what happens tomorrow."

The run to the championship game is a pleasant turnaround for a Finnish team that lost three games during the preliminary round, including a 4-2 loss to Russia on May 11.

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