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Russia ends golden dream for Spezza, Canada

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The golden dream is over for Jason Spezza and Team Canada.

Ilya Kovalchuk's blast gave Russia a 2-1 comeback win over the rival Canadians, earning the European hockey power a date with Finland in Friday's semifinal round of the 2011 IIHF World Hockey Championship. The Finns dumped Norway 4-1 in today's early quarter-final.

The goal by Kovalchuk, a New Jersey Devils forward, allowed Russia to sideline Canada in the world championship semifinals for a second straight year. Today's loss was the first in seven games for Canada at the 2011 worlds in Slovakia, but it proved to be fatal for its gold-medal hopes.

“We had a good team, we played a good tournament and we lose the biggest game of the tournament for us,” Spezza, the Ottawa Senators centre who scored Canada’s lone goal in the game, told reporters afterward. “It’s definitely disappointing.”

A win for Russia seemed unlikely early on, considering Canada had thoroughly outplayed Russia in the first period. Canada held a 17-6 edge in shots after 20 minutes, giving the Canadians an edge they would hold throughout the game, and one that made them seem a safe bet to advance after Spezza's breakaway goal gave Canada a 1-0 lead at 5:32 of the second period.

But the tables turned in the third as a shorthanded breakaway goal by Russia's Alexei Kaigorodov tied the game at 9:07 of the final period, and Kovalchuk's score off a sharp feed from Alexander Radulov completed the rally just over three minutes later.

In advancing to the semifinals, Russia managed to overcome not only a significant 37-20 shot disadvantage, but also a meek power play that was fruitless in five opportunities with an extra man. The win likely wouldn't have happened without an impressive 36-save performance by Russian goalie Konstantin Barulin.

Russia, which also eliminated Canada in the quarter-finals at the worlds a year ago, faces Finland in the late semifinal on Friday (2:15 p.m., TSN). In the other semifinal, the Czech Republic — whose roster includes Senators forward Milan Michalek — takes on Sweden, which includes Senators prospects David Rundblad and Jakob Silfverberg on its team (10:15 a.m., TSN).

The medal games are set for Sunday at the Orange Arena in Bratislava.

— With files from

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