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Russia Rallies Their Way To The Semis

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

BRATISLAVA – Ilya Kovalchuk's first goal of the tournament at 12:19 of the third period gave Russia a 2-1 win tonight over Canada at Orange Arena and the final spot in tomorrow night's semi-final game against Finland.
It was another classic game that pitted the individual skill of Russia against the determined team play of Canada. On this night, the Russians prevailed by the slimmest of margins although they trailed 1-0 after two periods.
"It's always a great rivalry between Canada and Russia," Kovalchuk said, "and they've got a great, young team with a lot of emotions. The most important was the win and to go through to the semi-final. It doesn't matter who scores the goals. We showed a lot of character. We had some guys who played on two lines, and our goalie was outstanding tonight."
Canada failed to hold another lead against their greatest rivals. In the gold-medal game of 2008, also coached by Ken Hitchcock, Canada had a 4-2 lead only to sit on the two-goal cushion in the final period and watch Kovalchuk tie the score in regulation and win it in overtime. Ditto in 2009, when Canada had a 1-0 lead, also on a Jason Spezza goal, and ended up losing gold to Russia, 2-1.
"Both teams played their hearts out," Hitchcock said. "We made a bad mistake while we could have stretched our lead to 2-0. The difference in the game was at the end of the day some of the best players of Russia stepped up at the end of the game. It was a great game. Both teams deserve a lot of credit."
Russia's coach, Slava Bykov, echoed those sentiments. "It was one of our best games at this tournament. The Russia-Canada games are always interesting. It’s a pity to have this clash of such big hockey nations already in the quarter-finals because one team has to go home early, but we’re happy that we won and we will keep our good mood."
The winning goal came when Alexander Radulov swung in behind the Canadian net and spotted Kovalchuk in the slot. The quick shot beat Jonathan Bernier between the pads as he slid across the crease. Bernier had been excellent all night, although Canada held a wide margin in shots, 37-20.

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov finished a plus-1 with 15:23 of ice time (26 shifts).

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