Tkachuk's four goals eliminate Russia

Updated: September 8, 2004, 1:55 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The United States again went with a younger lineup, but it was the veteran line of Keith Tkachuk, Mike Modano and Bill Guerin that played ageless hockey.

Tkachuk had four goals -- all assisted by Modano -- and added an assist as the Americans' top line accounted for 11 points and led the United States into the World Cup of Hockey semifinals with a 5-3 victory Tuesday night over Russia.

The St. Louis Blues forward -- normally the target of boos at the Minnesota Wild's Xcel Energy Center -- was the difference for the Americans, who avenged last week's loss to the Russians by eliminating them from the tournament.

"We went through a lull last week," Tkachuk said. "We were tired, and when you're tired you cut corners. But these are elimination games and we're hitting our stride now."

Just in time, too. The United States will play either Finland or the Czech Republic, who advanced from the European Division, on Friday night in St. Paul. Canada hosts Slovakia in Toronto on Wednesday with the final semifinal berth on the line.

After being outworked against Canada and Russia last week, the Americans beat struggling Slovakia 3-1, but still looked like the underdog against the Russians. But the roles reversed in the rematch, with Russia making costly turnovers that the suddenly opportunistic Americans jumped on.

"The biggest mistake we made is we're not playing practical hockey like the U.S. and Canada play," Russia's Oleg Tverdovsky said. "That's why they're beating the European teams."

After Russia made it 2-all with a quick goal in the third period, Tkachuk had a chance to score again after Russia's Dmitry Kalinin turned the puck over in the neutral zone. His shot deflected off a defender's stick, but Scott Gomez of the New Jersey Devils was there to punch a shot past goalie Ilya Bryzgalov at 4:25.

Just 22 seconds later, Guerin made a nice pass from the left circle to a cutting Tkachuk, who scored his fourth goal of the tournament to give the United States a 4-2 lead.

"That's where experience comes into play," Tkachuk said.

Russia pulled to 4-3 with 8:56 to play when Ilya Kovalchuk's slap shot from the left circle beat Robert Esche's glove during a four-minute power play. Russia couldn't convert on the second half of the advantage, created when Brian Leetch cut Dainius Zubrus in the face with a high stick.

The Americans played tight defense the rest of the way and Tkachuk added an empty netter with 54.7 seconds to play to seal the victory. Canada's Mario Lemieux also scored four goals in a game during the 1987 Canada Cup, the tournament that predated the World Cup.

"I've had four goals at some point in my NHL career, but tonight was special," the 32-year-old Tkachuk said.

Again opting for a younger lineup, U.S. coach Ron Wilson scratched Brett Hull, Craig Conroy, Brian Rolston and Eric Weinrich. The quicker team helped defeat winless Slovakia last week for the United States' lone win in round robin play, and Wilson didn't want a repeat of his team's lackluster play in its 3-1 loss to Russia.

Last week, the Russians started off fast against the sluggish Americans. On Tuesday, the United States was more aggressive on both ends of the ice.

"The guys have been playing for quite a while," Gomez said. "No one got down. A lot of these guys have been to the Stanley Cup finals, so we knew how we had to play."

The Americans led 1-0 with Tkachuk's first goal at 11:20. After Modano worked his way into the slot, he airmailed the puck toward the net, and Tkachuk tapped a shot past Bryzgalov.

Tkachuk's second goal made it 2-0 at 1:56 of the second, when Guerin found him with a pretty pass from behind the net. But Russia closed to 2-1 when Dmitry Afanasenkov beat Esche's stick with a low shot at 7:14.

The Americans had a chance to add another second-period goal on a penalty shot by Jason Blake, but his attempt at the 8:08 mark was high enough that Bryzgalov was able to stop it with his body.

Russia tied it 36 seconds into the third period after a U.S. turnover in the neutral zone. On a 3-on-1 break, Zubrus dropped a nice pass to Alexei Yashin. Yashin immediately zipped the puck back to Zubrus, who beat Esche's glove to make it 2-all.

Both teams had 21 shots.

"I thought it was a pretty even game," Russia forward Alex Kovalev said. "I thought we had a chance to win this game, and they used our turnovers and they scored on us."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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