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U.S. holds off Belarus for 5-3 win at Worlds @NHLdotcom

The United States let an early two-goal lead slip away against the upstart Belarusians, but a goal by Bobby Ryan at 12:10 of the third period would hold up as the eventual game-winner for the Americans, as the U.S. beat Belarus 5-3 Thursday at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki in the 2012 IIHF World Championship.

Nate Thompson gave the U.S. the lead for good on a goal with 1:39 left in the second, and Ryan potted his eventual game-winner in the third. Paul Stastny picked up a goal of his own at 15:34 of the third to give the U.S. a 5-2 lead before Belarus closed out the scoring on a goal by Yevgeni Kovyrshin with 10 seconds remaining.

The game appeared at first to be headed toward a potential blowout, as the U.S. took a lead 99 seconds into the game on a goal by Justin Abdelkader before Cam Atkinson doubled the edge just under five minutes later. Belarus wouldn't go quietly, however, as Alexei Kalyuzhny cut the lead in half later in the first period and Alexei Ugarov evened the score with a power-play goal at 2:50 of the second.

Mikhail Grabovski led Belarus with three points, all assists, while Abdelkader and Max Pacioretty each had two points for the U.S.

Russia 3, Denmark 1

Evgeni Malkin scored the game-winner and Konstantin Barulin made 35 saves as Russia remained undefeated and tied with Sweden for first place in their preliminary round group by winning at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm.

While the Russians took home three points in the standings, the most impressive performance of the day may have been by Denmark goalie Simon Nielsen, who generally kept Russia's explosive offense at bay by making 49 saves.

Russia took the lead early on Yevgeni Medvedev's goal just 2:08 into the game, but the Danes responded just 2:03 later when Lars Eller fired a shot that deflected off the skate of Russian captain Ilya Nikulin and into the net. Malkin scored the eventual game-winner at 13:35 of the first and Dmitri Kalinin put the game out of reach with a score at 6:32 of the second.

Denmark put on impressive pressure in the third period as the Danes tried desperately to tie up the game, putting 20 shots on net in the final period alone after getting just 16 shots on net in the previous 40 minutes. Barulin held down the fort for the Russians, however, keeping Denmark scoreless in the final two periods to seal the win.

Finland 7, France 1

For 20 minutes the French hung in with the defending champions, trailing Finland by just one goal after the first period, but the Finns exploded with four goals in the second and two more in the third, ultimately defeating France 7-1 Thursday at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.

Finland is now 4-0 at the 2012 World Championship. The French fell to 1-3.

The final score belies how close the two teams were for much of the game, as Finland slowed its own offense down by taking multiple penalties in the first period. At the midway point of the game the only score belonged to Finland's Jarkko Immonen, but at 10:00 of the second period, Mikko Koivu gave Finland a 2-0 lead and set off a stretch in which the score went from 1-0 to 5-0 in just over eight minutes. Jussi Jokinen, Janne Niskala and Niko Kapanen all lit the lamp before the second intermission.

France finally got on the board when Anthony Guttig score a power-play goal at 3:34 of the third period, but it was too little too late. Jokinen added a second goal just 27 seconds later and Juuso Hietanen capped off the scoring with a power-play goal at 10:00 of the third.

Koivu, the Finnish captain, led all scorers with a goal and three assists, while Valtteri Filppula added three assists of his own.

Czech Republic 3, Latvia 1

Petr Nedved potted the game-winner midway through the third period and Tomas Plekanec scored a power-play goal to ice the win, as the Czech Republic escaped an upset bid by Latvia at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm.

The win makes the Czechs 3-1 in the preliminary round, with their lone blemish being a 4-1 loss to Sweden this past Saturday. The Latvians fell to 2-2.

Latvia held the game tight for most of the night, holding the Czechs scoreless through the first 20 minutes and taking the lead early in the second when Armands Berzins scored at 3:55. The Czech Republic tied it just 5:03 later when Plekanec and Jakub Nakladal set up Milan Michalek. The game wouldn't see another goal for more than 20 minutes as the Latvians looked for the breakthrough score, but Nedved finally broke the ice at 10:50 of the third to give the Czechs the lead for good.

After getting outshot by a 14-12 margin in the second, the Czech Republic managed to control the final period, holding Latvia to just three shots on goal. Jakub Kovar stopped 25 shots in getting the win for the Czech Republic. Latvia's Edgars Masalskis finished with 31 saves of his own.

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