Afinogenov's two goals lift Russia to bronze medal
VIENNA, Austria -- Martin Rucinsky made sure the Czech Republic wouldn't need overtime or a shootout to win the world hockey championship.
Rucinsky set up Vaclav Prospal's first-period goal and scored one of his own in the third as the Czech Republic denied Canada its third straight title and won the world championship 3-0 on Sunday.
"Scoring a goal in a world championship final is already fantastic, but winning is even better," Prospal said. "Canada was tough, but we were better."
Tomas Vokoun, named the tournament's best goalie, made 29 saves in earning the shutout. The Czechs (8-1) hadn't won the gold since 2001 when they captured their third straight. It is their fifth world championship since 1996.
"It was a very tough game, but we always believed in ourselves," forward Jaromir Jagr said. "It helped, of course, that we scored the opener, because then the Canadians had to attack.
"It was a very tactical game and our coach told us to remain calm, stay back and wait for our chances. I'm sure our fans have forgiven us now for not winning at home last year," he said.
A year ago in Prague, the United States eliminated the Czechs from the quarterfinals with a shootout victory.
This one didn't come easy. The Czechs got revenge and beat the United States in a shootout to win their quarterfinal game on Thursday and then eliminated Sweden -- the runner-up the past two years -- Saturday to win that semifinal matchup 3-2 in overtime.
Rucinsky gave the Czechs a 2-0 lead 3:14 into the third period, beating Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur with a slap shot to the glove side from the top of the left circle after a fast rush. Jagr, a five-time NHL scoring champion, set up the goal.
With his first world title, the 33-year-old Jagr became one of only 15 players to win a Stanley Cup ring and gold medals in both the Olympics and world championships.
Prospal made it 1-0 when he knocked a rebound past Brodeur at 4:13 of the first after Rucinsky hit the post off a nice pass from Jagr.
Canada (6-2-1) pulled Brodeur for an extra attacker during a power play in the last minute, but it was too late. Josef Vasicek sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 53 seconds remaining.
Thousands of flag-waving Czech fans celebrated the victory at Stadthalle.
In a wide-open second period, Simon Gagne had two excellent scoring chances for Canada that were turned aside. Joe Thornton and Rick Nash, voted to the All-Tournament's team, finished 1-2 in the scoring race but were held off the board Sunday.
"On any other given night we could have had them," Nash said. "We had our chances, but we didn't bury them. Vokoun played well."
It was the first time in the tournament that Canada was shut out.
"We couldn't find the back of the net," Thornton said. "It's disappointing. We wanted to win this so bad, but it didn't work out."
The world championships took on even more importance this year because of the NHL lockout that canceled the entire North American season and threatens next season, too.
"Who knows when hockey is going to start up again," Thornton said. "This was kind of our Stanley Cup this year. We just came up short. The guys played their hearts out. That's what we wanted for the last game."
Thornton led three Canadians atop the scoring list with six goals and 10 points for 16 points. Nash was the top goal-scorer with nine goals. He also added six assists. Gagne was third with three goals and seven assists.
Earlier in the day, Maxim Afinogenov had two goals and an assist to lead Russia to a 6-3 victory over Sweden in the bronze medal game.
Afinogenov scored just 1:02 in and added his second goal at 3:58, both off assists by Alexander Ovechkin -- last year's top NHL draft pick by the Washington Capitals. That helped lift Russia to a world championship medal for only the third time since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Russia finished a disappointing 10th last year but rebounded for a 6-1-2 performance. The only loss came Saturday, 4-3 to Canada in the semifinals.
Ovechkin, 19, also scored as the Russians knocked Henrik Lundqvist, a New York Rangers goalie prospect, out of the game with three first-period goals.
"We're happy, but we're disappointed with what happened in the last game because we lost to Canada," said Ovechkin, who scored five goals in the tournament. "My best game was today, because we won third place. You always want to win your last game of the season."
Sweden (6-3) had its medal streak snapped at four.
Ronnie Sundin cut Sweden's deficit to 2-1 with a power-play goal at 8:11 of the first period but Alexei Kovalev restored Russia's two-goal lead at 15:24.
Henrik Zetterberg made it 3-2 with 47 seconds left of the period.
Henrik Sedin scored a third-period goal for Sweden, which was outshot 32-23.
Maxim Sokolov, Russia's first-string goalie, went the distance.
Before the worlds, Russia beat Sweden in the two-game final series to win the European Hockey Tour -- the finale of Europe's top three hockey tournaments -- for the first time.
Sweden made it to the medal round of this tournament despite missing four of its biggest stars. Former NHL MVP Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Mats Sundin and defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom all sat out because of injuries and personal reasons.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press