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Sweden advances to world junior final with 5-3 win over Slovakia

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OTTAWA - Mikael Backlund scored two goals as Sweden found an answer to Slovak goaltender Jaroslav Janus in a 5-3 victory in the semifinals of the world junior hockey championship on Saturday afternoon.

David Ullstrom, Simon Hjalmarsson and Oscar Moller also scored for Sweden, which advanced to the final for the second straight year.

Marek Mertel scored in the first period and assisted on two goals by Tomas Tatar for Slovakia, which was coming off a shock 5-3 quarter-final win over the United States on Friday in which Janus made 44 saves. This time, Sweden outshot the Slovaks 51-30.

In the final on Monday, Sweden will meet the winner of the second semifinal later Saturday between Canada and Russia. The Swedes were beaten by Canada in last year's final in the Czech Republic.

The Slovaks nearly pulled off another upset as they went into the final period leading 2-1 despite being outshot by a wide margin and being outplayed by the Swedes.

And even as Sweden rattled off three straight goals in the third, the Slovaks pulled Janus with 4:30 left to play and Tatar got his second of the game at 15:58 to make it close.

The first period went just as Slovakia liked it.

They checked. Janus made the saves. They killed off a high-sticking double minor to Juraj Valach and a delay of game penalty to Janus, then struck on their first power play of the game as Mertel's floating shot from the left point found its way through traffic to the top corner with only four seconds left in the period.

The Swedes came roaring out in the second, but Janus made a string of superb saves until Backlund, a Calgary Flames draft puck, finally tied the game at 10:19 as he broke in on the off-wing and put a wrist shot in off Valach's leg.

But the Slovak power play struck again as Tatar walked off the right boards and roofed a shot inside the near post past Jacob Markstrom at 15:47 of the second frame.

The Swedes thought they had a buzzer-beater as Nichlas Torp's point blast went in at the end of the period, but video review showed time had expired.

Backlund struck on a power play 7:04 into the third and Ullstrom broke through the crease, fell over Janus and poked the puck in while lying on the ice at 11:42.

Hjalmarsson added another before Tatar's goal, but Moller scored into an empty net with 1:17 left to play.

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