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Czechs drum USA out of World tourney

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

For the ninth time in the past 10 years, the United States leave the World Championship in disappointment following a 4-3 loss to the Czech Republic in Thursday’s quarterfinals in Minsk, Belarus.

Three power-play goals in the second period helped the Czechs build a 4-1 lead. They scored two quick goals after American captain Justin Abdelkader, the Red Wings forward, was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for charging Vladimir Sobotka at 6:41 of the second period.

A penalty was not immediately called after the hit, and it wasn’t until Sobotka was helped from the ice by teammates that conferred before making the call.

Abdelkader served a one-game suspension during the preliminary round for his knee-on-knee hit against Kazakhstan’s Konstantin Pushkaryovbegan last Saturday. As a result, the Red Wings’ forward received a two-minute minor penalty, however, the International Ice Hockey Federation, the governing body of the tournament, decided that his hit warranted supplemental discipline.

The IIHF’s Disciplinary Panel offered the following explanation of Abdelkader’s suspension:

"Abdelkader had sufficient time to choose the manner in which he was going to check Pushkaryov and that at no point did Abdelkader make any attempt to play the puck. Pushkaryov turned to avoid the hit as he has a right to evade his opponent, so the responsibility lies with Abdelkader to take a different route to avoid the knee-to-knee contact

"The Panel believes that Abdelkader’s actions were unintentional but his check caused a serious injury to Pushkaryov and for this he must be held accountable. Therefore the Panel determined that a one-game suspension would be appropriate."

Abdelkader finished the tournament with three goals and four points in six games. Danny DeKeyser produced two assists and minus-2 rating in seven games played for the Americans, who won bronze at the 2013 World Championship

The Czechs took full advantage of the American’s second-period situation, getting power-play goals by Tomas Hertl and Roman Cervenka in a 75-second span to take a 3-1 lead at 8:06.

Ondrej Nemec scored the Czech’s third power-play goal of the period at 16:19 to take a 4-1 lead.

With less than four minutes left in regulation, the Americans pulled goalie Tim Thomas for an extra attacker. The strategy worked for a time as Tyler Johnson scored two goals in 13 seconds. But the U.S. couldn’t get the tying goal against Czech goalie Alexander Salak, who made 31 saves.

The Czechs, who have medaled in three of the past four years, including a gold-medal win in 2010, will face the winner of Canada-Finland in Saturday’s semifinal.

The championship is Sunday.

RUSSIA 3, FRANCE 0: Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins) had a goal and an assist while Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) was scoreless in his return after missing one game due to injury.

Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets) stopped all 16 shots he faced, and Russia also got goals from Artem Anisimov (Blue Jackets) and Alexander Kutuzov to advance past France in a game at Minsk Arena.

Russia, which was the only undefeated team in the preliminary round (7-0), advances to the semifinals Saturday to face Sweden, which beat Belarus 4-2 in another quarterfinal game.

Anisimov started the scoring at 4:21 of the first with a wrist shot that beat France goalie Cristobal Huet. Malkin doubled the lead 52 seconds into the second period on a power play.

"I felt much better [Thursday]. I had the time to get acclimated," said Malkin, who didn't join Russia until after the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. "[Nikolai] Kulemin (Maple Leafs) and I have played with each other a lot before and I know how to play with him. It's very comfortable for me on the line with [Kulemin and Viktor Tikhonov]. It was a good win, but we could have played better and been more effective."

Huet kept his team within striking distance and France killed off a 54-second 5-on-3 advantage for Russia in the second, but Kutuzov finally put the game away 7:36 into the third with a one-timer off a Malkin feed.

Ovechkin sustained an injury to his right leg during Russia's preliminary-round game against Germany on Sunday, but an MRI revealed no ligament damage to his right knee. He sat out Russia's final opening-round game, Tuesday against Belarus, but practiced Wednesday and took regular shifts against France on Thursday, wearing a knee brace.

"Of course it was a bit awkward to skate in the brace," Ovechkin said. "But I think I'll play without it the next game and everything will be OK. I wasn't risking anything. I knew the brace would protect me in case of a collision. That's what happened in the first period and I immediately knew that the leg is reacting well."

SWEDEN 3, BELARUS 2: Defenseman Mattias Ekholm (Predators) scored on a wraparound with 6:22 remaining as Sweden survived a staunch effort from host nation Belarus in a game at Minsk Arena and advanced to the semifinals Saturday, against Russia.

Less than a minute before he scored, Ekholm was called for hooking Belarus captain Alexei Kalyuzhny on a breakaway, leading to a penalty shot. Anders Nilsson (Islanders) made a stick save, one of 21 shots he turned aside.

Nicklas Danielsson and Jimmie Ericsson also scored for Sweden.

Geoff Platt and Alexei Yefimenko scored in the second period as Belarus took a brief 2-1 lead in its bid for an upset. Kevin Lalande made 22 saves.

Danielsson's power-play goal with 6:19 left in the first, off the rebound of Ekholm's point shot, got the scoring started. But Belarus came back strong in the second. Platt scored the tying goal at 5:39 and set up Yefimenko for the go-ahead goal at 14:14. Sweden responded at 17:27 on another power play, Ericsson tipping in a shot by Magnus Nygren.

FINLAND 3, CANADA 2: Iiro Pakarinen scored with 3:08 remaining as Finland eliminated Canada with a 3-2 win Thursday in the quarterfinals of the 2014 IIHF World Championship in a game played at Chizhovka Arena in Minsk, Belarus.

Olli Palola and Juuso Hietanen also scored and Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) stopped 36 shots for Finland, which will face the Czech Republic in one of two semifinals scheduled for Saturday.

Kyle Turris (Ottawa Senators) and Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg Jets) scored second-period goals for Canada, which lost in the quarterfinals for the fifth straight year. Canada last medaled at the Worlds in 2009 (silver) and hasn't won gold in the tournament since 2007.

Canada won gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and was bidding to become the second team, following Sweden in 2006, to capture gold in the Olympics and the World Championship in the same year. contributed to this report.

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