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Russians enjoy big win over Czechs

by Adam Schwartz

Former NHL forward Alexei Morozov netted two goals to help lift Team Russia over the Czech Republic, 5-4, in opening weekend action at the 2008 World Championships in Quebec City, Quebec.
There weren’t many tight games in the opening weekend of the 2008 IIHF World Championship, but Russia’s 5-4 victory Sunday against the Czech Republic was simply a stunner.

Former Pittsburgh Penguin Alexei Morozov’s second goal of the game gave the Russians the lead for good. The goal came after Russia’s star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, who scored 52 goals for the Atlanta Thrasher this season, hit the post behind Czech Republic goalie -- and former Thrashers teammate -- Milan Hnilicka on a penalty-shot attempt early in overtime. 

Morozov, who played 451 games with the Penguins from 1997-2004, has played for AK Bars Kazan in Russia for the past four seasons and finished this season with 30 goals and 33 assists for 63 points in 57 games.

In addition to Morozov’s two goals, the Russians got goals from Sergei Zinoviev, Konstantin Gorovikov and Konstantin Korneyev. With a team loaded with NHL talent it is significant to note that not one NHL player scored for Russia, even though Washington Captials star left wing Alex Ovechkin hit the post twice.

“It's luck, my goals aren't coming, so they'll come later,” Ovechkin said.

The all-Washington Capitals top line of Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov for Russia was held to just one assist against the Czechs after it accounted for three goals Friday in a 7-1 rout against Italy in the opening day of the tournament.  

Despite left wing Patrik Elias’ hat trick of power-play goals and a 43-27 shot advantage, the Czechs were unable to record a victory, but they are still confident about their future in the tournament.

“I don't think the better team won today,” said Czech right wing Ales Kotalik, who scored the other goal for the Czechs. “I think the luckier team won tonight.”

The Czechs were the better team against Denmark, which has one player who played in the NHL this season in Frans Nielson, who played 16 games with the New York Islanders this season. The Czechs took a 5-2 victory from the Danes Friday afternoon in their opening game.

Denmark also has a top prospect in Lars Eller, selected No.13 overall by the St. Louis Blues in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. 

Russia now sits atop the Group D standings, but has just five out of a possible six points because an overtime win counts for two points and a regulation win earns a team three points.

Around the World Championships:
Canada right wing Dany Heatley leads the tournament with eight points after two games, helping the Canadians defeat Slovenia 5-1 and Latvia 7-0. … United States center Phil Kessel scored a hat trick in a 5-1 victory against the Slovenians. … The United States is tied with the Canadians with a perfect 2-0 record for the lead in Group B, but the two will meet Tuesday afternoon at the Halifax Metro Centre to likely decide who will get the top spot in the group. … Belarus scared Sweden Saturday in the first Group A game. The highly favored Swedes, led by NHL rookie sensations Alexander Edler of the Vancouver Canucks and Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom, narrowly avoided defeat when they won, 5-4. … Belarusian defenseman Viktor Kostyuchenok, who plays for Yunost Minsk in the Belarusian league, has one goal and one assist and leads the team with a plus-4 rating. Belarus will try to win its first game of the tournament Monday when it faces off against the Swiss. … Finland, which won its first game Saturday, 5-1, against Germany, will look to start out a perfect 2-0 when it battles Norway at the Halifax Metro Centre on Monday afternoon. … Finish forward Mikko Koivu, brother of Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu, had three points in Finland’s first game. … French goalie Cristobal Huet, who helped the Capitals to Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, faced 48 shots in France’s 4-1 loss to Switzerland. … Slovakia players Juraj Kolnik and Lubomir Visnovsky had two points and Robert Petrovicky had one goal and two assists for three points in Slovakia’s 5-1 victory against Norway. … Slovenia center and lone NHL player Anze Kopitar was rather prophetic before Slovenia’s opening game against Canada. “Hopefully we can keep it down to five goals, maybe,” Kopitar said prior to Slovenia’s 5-1 loss to Canada. Kopitar, who led the Los Angeles Kings with 77 points this season, has scored both goals for Slovenia in a pair of 5-1 losses to Canada and the United States.           

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