Russia beats U.S. 4-1; Belarus ties Finland 1-1 at world hockey championship

BERN, Switzerland – Russia scored three power-play goals to beat the United States 4-1 Saturday in a second-round match at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.

The U.S. took an early lead but was made to pay for taking too many penalties as Russia rallied to make it 3-1 at the end of the first period.

Russia increased its lead on another power play early in the second, and the Americans never looked close to a comeback in the teams’ first meeting at the world championship in five years.

Defending champion Russia secured a spot in the quarter-finals as a top seed, having won Group E with 11 points and a game to spare.

The U.S. is second at seven points with one game to play.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Lee Stempniak scored for the U.S. after 3:16, cutting in through the left circle to send a wrist shot through the pads of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

But the Americans were quickly called twice for hooking – by 19-year-old Colin Wilson and Kyle Okposo – and the Russians took full advantage.

Oleg Saprykin tied it with a shot from the crease on the first power play, and Alexander Perezhogin connected on a pass from behind the net to beat goalie Robert Esche on the second.

Russia took a 3-1 lead at 17:06 when Sergei Mozyakin’s slap shot beat Esche low to his right, with the puck bouncing in via the post.

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Okposo was then called for charging early in the second period, and Alex Radulov increased Russia’s lead by taking a reverse backhand pass from Saprykin and beating Esche.

The experienced Russians then shut down the young American team – which has an average age of just over 24 – the rest of the way. The only Russian player younger than 24 was Radulov, the 22-year-old forward who broke his Nashville Predators contract last summer to play for native club Salavat Yulayev.

The teams last met in a second-round match at the 2004 worlds in the Czech Republic. The U.S. won that game 3-2 in Ostrava on its way to a bronze medal, the last time it has finished on the podium.

Elsewhere Saturday, Latvia and the Czech Republic took big strides toward reaching the quarter-finals with dominating wins.

Latvia knocked France out of contention in a 7-1 rout at Bern, while at Zurich the Czechs handed neighbouring Slovakia an 8-0 thrashing for its worst-ever loss in world championship play.

Meanwhile, Oleg Antonenko scored the winning shootout goal as Belarus gained an extra point after beating Finland 2-1 at Zurich.

The result gave Belarus six points and a likely spot in the quarter-finals. It will progress if Canada beats Norway on Sunday.

Canada, which had a rest day, leads Group F from Finland and the Czech Republic.