Russia to face either U.S. or Finland next

Updated: May 9, 2007, 4:55 PM ET
Associated Press

MOSCOW -- Russia led the entire way and Sweden came from behind to secure spots in the semifinals of the hockey world championships on Wednesday.

Evgeni Malkin (top)
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty ImagesEvgeni Malkin (in red) scored twice in the third as Russia remained undefeated in its quest for its first title since '93.

Evgeni Malkin scored two goals to help Russia beat the Czech Republic 4-0, and Tony Martensson scored three goals in defending champion Sweden's 7-4 win over Slovakia.

Russia, undefeated in seven games and bidding for its first title since 1993, will play either the United States or Finland on Saturday. Sweden will face Canada or Switzerland.

"It's just an unbelievable atmosphere right now. We win the game and everyone supports us," Russian forward Alexander Ovechkin said. "We feel good and we can't wait for the next game."

New Jersey Devils right winger Sergei Brylin joined Russia hours before the game, and the national team is also reportedly trying to convince San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov and New York Rangers defenseman Fedor Tyutin to join the team for the semifinals.

The Czechs, who won four of the last eight titles, had reached the final at the last two championships, winning gold in 2005.

But Andrei Markov gave Russia the lead for good in the first period when he gathered a backhand pass from Alexander Frolov and wristed it over Roman Cechmanek's right shoulder on a power play.

After a scoreless second period, Ilya Kovalchuk sent a slap shot from the circle that bounced off the end boards and onto Malkin's stick. The Pittsburgh Penguins forward put the rebound through an opening to make it 2-0 only 23 seconds into the final period.

Cechmanek later came out of the crease and fell, dropping his stick, and Alexander Radulov sent a slap shot past the goalie to make it 3-0.

Malkin added the fourth goal on a breakaway. With Czech Republic defenseman Zbynek Michalek giving chase, Malkin scored a wraparound goal with five minutes to go.

Alexander Eremenko made 27 saves to earn the shutout.

"I think they're the best team here," Czech forward Tomas Plekanec said. "We were there for the first two periods but the second goal in the third period was huge for them and then we just didn't play."

Russia, which has scored a tournament-leading 39 goals, is bidding to become the first host country to win the worlds since 1986. That year the Soviet Union went undefeated in 10 games.

"It was a big day for our country," Russian defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. "It was good playing in front of our fans."

Sweden, meanwhile, rallied from a 2-1 first-period deficit with three goals in the second.

"It was tough for us because they came out well and we had to struggle to get back in the game," Sweden defenseman Magnus Johansson said. "The equalizer in the second period was a big thing because we began to control the game."

In the third period, Branko Radivojevic converted a rebound to pull the Slovaks within one. But Martensson scored his second goal six minutes later and Johansson made it 6-3 on a two-man advantage two minutes later.

After Roman Kukumberg scored Slovakia's final goal, Martensson scored his third on an empty-netter with 15 seconds left in the game.

"We knew they were going to play their game, so we needed to make better decisions on the ice, which did not happen in the second period and they were able to score goals," Slovakia forward Miroslav Satan said.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE