Russia beats U.S., will face Canada in world junior final

Updated: January 4, 2006, 1:12 PM ET
Associated Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Nikolai Kulemin scored two goals and Russia defeated the United States 5-1 Tuesday night to advance to finals of the world junior hockey championships.

Russia will play Canada, which beat Finland 4-0 in the other semifinal, for the gold Thursday night. It will be the fifth championship meeting since 1999 for the teams. The U.S. will face Finland for the bronze earlier in the day.

"I'm proud of our guys," said Evgeni Malkin, who had two assists. "We showed that we are a team and we can fight and play as a team."

Sergei Shirokov had a goal and assist for Russia, which led 1-0 after two periods. Defenseman Alexei Emelin and Nikolai Lemtyugov also scored as Russia broke open a tight game with three goals in just more than 12 minutes in the third period.

Goalie Anton Khudobin stopped 34 shots, making some big saves early.

"There is definitely a sense of anger and hurt because we came up short for what we came here for," defenseman Jack Johnson said. "This team on paper was as talented, if not more talented, than anyone here.

"It comes down to a team game. Tonight we came up short. We just lost to a good team."

Tempers flared near the end of the game and players from both teams began getting extra physical. With just over 1 minute left, all the players on the ice were involved in pushing and shoving.

Kulemin's second goal of the night, a power-play score 1:42 into the third period that made it 2-0, showed both strength and finesse. He used his speed to beat a U.S. player at the blue line, and then, with one hand on his stick, fought off a defender and beat goalie Cory Schneider on the glove side for his fourth goal of the championships.

Jack Skille had the lone American goal, on the power play 42 seconds later to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Emelin scored nearly 40 seconds later to restore Russia's two-goal lead.

"There have been four other [American] teams in 30 years that have won medals at the world junior championship," U.S. coach Walt Kyle said. "If we're fortunate enough to be able to do that, in my opinion, that's a solid accomplishment and I would absolutely be proud of that."

Kulemin opened the scoring at 12:32 of the first period. Llia Zubov fired a hard shot that Schneider blocked with his chest. Kulemin was waiting on the door step and flipped the rebound into the net.

Kris Russell, Blake Comeau, Andrew Cogliano and Kris Letang all scored as defending champion Canada advanced to the finals for the fifth straight year. The last time Canada won consecutive titles was during a five-year run from in 1993-1997.

"The whole country is watching and everyone is counting on us," Comeau said. "I think everyone is going to be disappointed if we don't end up getting what we want."

Justin Pogge stopped 19 shots for the shutout, and Canada has given up six goals in its five games; only one was at even strength.

"We've got a good chance of winning if we play the way that we have to and not give teams a whole lot," Comeau said.

Russell scored at 18:16 of the first period, and Comeau -- selected by the New York Islanders in the second round of the 2004 NHL draft -- knocked in his own rebound at 18:58 of the second.

The Canadians, who had a 43-19 shooting advantage, gradually wore down the tiring Finns by pressuring them above their own blue line and throwing hard checks. Finland took penalties out of fatigue, but Canada had trouble converting its man-advantage chances and were 0-for-7 in the first two periods before Letang's power-play goal 9:40 into the third.

Cogliano, who plays at Michigan, capped the scoring with about 6½ minutes left.

"It was good for me to get that goal and get some confidence," Cogliano said. "I can carry that confidence into the gold medal game."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press