Belarus, Denmark reach qualifying round

Updated: May 1, 2007, 8:42 PM ET
Associated Press

MOSCOW -- Petr Schastlivyy scored midway through the third period and Russia held on for a 5-4 win over Finland at the hockey world championships on Tuesday.

In Mytischi, Jaroslav Bednar scored the winning goal with 1:08 remaining to lift the Czech Republic to a 4-3 victory over the United States and the top spot in Group B.

In other games, Belarus beat Austria 5-2 in Group B and Denmark downed Ukraine 4-3 in Group D to send both teams to the qualifying round.

After a turnover in the neutral zone, Russian defender Denis Grebeshkov passed to Schastlivyy and the Russian captain beat Finland goalie Fredrik Norrena, who also plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets, with a wrist shot low on the stick side at 12:21 of the third period to give the hosts a 5-3 lead.

Russia took a 4-1 lead into the third period of the Group D game but the Finns rallied on goals by Jukka Hentunen and the Dallas Stars' Jere Lehtinen and pulled within a goal for the final time when Petteri Nummelin converted on a power play at 14:09.

Lehtinen, added to Finland's roster for Tuesday's game, tapped a rebound past goalie Vasili Koshechkin at 8:53 of the third to cut Russia's lead to 4-3.

"We let them get back into it with some penalties," Russian and Sergei Gonchar, a Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman, said. "But we knew if we stuck to our game plan we'd be OK and most of the play in the last half of the period was in their end."

With Russian hockey great Boris Mikhailov among the capacity crowd, Russia looked set for an easy win with two goals in the first six minutes of the second period that gave Vyacheslav Bykov's team a three-goal cushion.

Atlanta Thrashers winger Ilya Kovalchuk threaded a cross-ice pass to Gonchar, who beat Norrena with a blast from the faceoff circle to make it 3-1 at 3:49.

"Ilya made a great pass," Gonchar said. "Their goalie didn't have a chance to move across the crease and I had a wide-open net."

Tempers flared after Gonchar's goal. Jarkko Ruutu was ejected from the game for an elbow to Schastlivyy, who was slow getting up.

On the ensuing power play, Alexei Morozov, who had three goals in Russia's 8-1 win over Ukraine, scored on a rebound at 6:08 to make it 4-1.

Russia is bidding for its first world title since 1993. Finland last won the tournament in 1995.

Along with Mikhailov, who led the Soviet Union to eight world titles from 1969 to 1979, former greats Vladislav Tretiak and Slava Fetisov were also in attendance.

Both teams had already advanced to the qualifying round. Russia improved to 3-0 while Finland dropped to 2-1.

Bednar provided the heroics for the Czech Republic with overtime approaching.

Jan Marek passed from behind the net, and Bednar -- the Czechs' 13th forward who did not play in their opening game against Belarus -- tapped it under John Grahame's leg.

"Both teams played hard and pretty good. It was the first tough game for both teams. We and the Americans played 100 percent," Czech goalie Roman Cechmanek said.

After an evenly matched opening period, the Czechs went ahead on a power play with 3:08 remaining. Grahame was protecting the left side of his net from the fast approaching Jaroslav Hlinka, but the Czech made a pass to Petr Caslava, who knocked the puck into the gaping net.

Defenseman Ryan Suter equalized for the Americans on a power play 4:42 into the second period, his snap shot from the point deflecting off the right post and then Cechmanek's backside into the net.

Buoyed by a loud partisan crowd, the Czechs pulled ahead again at 14:37 when Zbynek Irgl stormed down the wing to beat Grahame.

At 7:51 of the third, Marek snatched a loose puck and made a quick pass to Petr Tenkrat, who made it 3-1 when he got it through Grahame's short side.

However, the U.S. responded with two goals in 98 seconds.

Chad Larose of Carolina scored shorthanded at 13:59, and Andrew Hutchinson put slap shot from the point through Cechmanek's pads.

Austria and Ukraine will move on to the relegation round. Two teams will be demoted to the second division while France and Slovenia will move up to the top division for the 2008 tournament.

Rasmus Pander and Kim Staal scored less than three minutes apart midway through the first and Denmark held off Ukraine. Pander's goal at 10:31 of the first put Denmark ahead 2-1 and Staal scored the first of his two for a two-goal cushion.

After Oleksandr Matviichuk pulled Ukraine within 3-2 26 seconds later, Staal added his second midway through the second on a power play to give the insurance the Danes needed.

Aleksei Ugarov and Oleg Antonenko scored power-play goals midway through the second to give Belarus a 4-2 lead and spoil a two-goal effort by Austria's Andre Lakos. The victory sent it to the qualifying round where it will open Friday against either Germany or Norway.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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