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Russians and Czechs to play for World Championship

by John Kreiser /
Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings scored with 1:50 left in regulation on Saturday to give two-time defending champion Russia a 2-1 victory over Germany and a berth in the gold medal game at the World Hockey Championships in Cologne, Germany.

The Russians will play the Czech Republic on Sunday for the championship. The Czechs got a goal from former NHL defenseman Karel Rachunek with 7.5 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, and Jan Marek scored the shootout winner for a 3-2 win over Sweden in the other semifinal.

"If a team makes it to the final, it's one of the best teams in the tournament. I know it'll be a good game and a tough game," Datsyuk told the IIHF's website.

The Swedes and Germans will meet for the bronze medal.

Datsyuk broke a 1-1 tie when he came down on a 2-on-1 break after a German turnover at the Russian blue line. He looked as it he would pass, but opted to shoot and beat goaltender Rob Zepp high to the glove side, disappointing the home crowd and giving the Russians their 27th consecutive victory in World Championship play.

But the Germans, who haven't won a medal at the World Championships since 1953, gave the Russians all they could handle.

Russia got into early penalty trouble, and Marcel Goc of the Nashville Predators put the Germans ahead at 15:30 of the first period, punching home a rebound for a 5-on-3 power-play goal. Christian Ehrhoff of the Vancouver Canucks took a point shot that was stopped by Vasili Koshechkin. But the rebound came to Goc, the German captain, and he slammed it home.

Evgeni Malkin tied it at 11:07 of the second period when he one-timed a pass from Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Sergei Gonchar past Zepp at 11:07. Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils got the other assist, giving him a tournament-high 11 points.

In the first semifinal, Marek scored the winner when he deked Jonas Gustavsson of the Toronto Maple Leafs and slipped the puck between the goalie's pads. It squeaked through, bounced off the post and barely rolled over the line. Czech goaltender Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers then stopped Tony Martensson on Sweden's final attempt for the win. Lukas Kaspar of the Czech Republic and Linus Omark of Sweden, who recently signed with the Edmonton Oilers, had scored earlier in the shootout.

"It's obviously a great feeling," Vokoun told the IIHF's website. "We struggled in the Preliminary Round and almost didn't make it. We were in a must-win situation against Canada, and if we lost, we would have gone home. We've been playing elimination round-style hockey ever since we lost to Norway. That put us in a very bad spot. We've beaten some very good teams, and now we've beaten Sweden twice."

Sweden failed to convert on an early 5-on-3 power play, but scored the game's first goal at 8:29 of the opening period during a one-man advantage when Johan Harju slammed a rebound past Vokoun for a 1-0 lead.

The Czechs got just five shots in the opening period, but tied the game at 17:28 when Tomas Mojzis' weak shot from the point went past Gustavsson's blocker.

Sweden went back in front at 11:25 of the second period when Andreas Engqvist took a passout from Martensson and beat Vokoun with a quick shot over his glove.

The Czechs pulled Vokoun with 1:45 left in the third period and tied it when Rachunek stepped into a slap shot after the puck squirted into the high slot, beating Gustavsson to the stick side. Rachunek had a chance to win the game during the 10-minute overtime when he got a breakaway after Sweden's Victor Hedman fanned on a point shot, but the Tampa Bay Lightning rookie defenseman chased him down and prevented Rachunek from getting off a shot.

The Czechs are trying for their first gold medal since 2005.

"Two weeks ago, nobody gave us a chance," Jagr told the IIHF site. "I'm so happy for these guys. Now we're going to the final."

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