Finland, Russia remain unbeaten at world championships

5/11/2008 - NHL

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- Niko Kapanen's third
period goal spared Finland's mistakes as they beat Latvia 2-1 on
Friday in their opening game of the second round at the ice
hockey world championships.

In Quebec City, Russia allowed Belarus an early 2-0 lead
before Russia moved into gear and rallied for a 4-3
shootout victory improving their record to 4-0.

Kapanen's tally midway through the final period earned the
unbeaten Finns their third one-goal victory in four games and
spoiled a heroic effort from Latvian netminder Edgars
Masalskis, who was bombarded with 64 shots.

Finland dominated the first period, outshooting the Latvians
36-5 but trailed 1-0 on a goal from Lauris Darzins.

Right from the opening face-off the Finns launched an all
out assault on Masalskis but could not put one past the
netminder, unable to convert on any of seven powerplay
chances, including two two-man advantages.

"I'm kind of empty, so much work, the guys were doing such a
great job," said Masalskis, who has faced 148 shots in three
games. "It was crazy. There were so many penalties and we didn't
let in a goal shorthanded."

Finland's persistence was finally rewarded midway through
the second period when Antii Pihlstrom out-raced a pair of
Latvian defenders for the puck and flipped it past Masalskis for
the equalizer.

Latvia again spent much of their energy in the final period
killing penalties and looked to have weathered the storm until
Kapanen took a drop pass from Sami Lepisto and ripped a wrist
shot over Masalskis' shoulder for the winner.

"It wasn't the score we wanted but it was the result we
wanted," said Finland coach Doug Shedden.

Belarus shocked Russia by jumping out to an early 2-0 first
period lead on goals from Andrei Mikhalev and Dmitry Dudik.

Maxim Afinogenov sparked the Russian comeback with a second
period goal while Alexander Ovechkin tied the game 2-2 on a
blistering wrist shot early in the third that caught the top
corner of the net.

Afinogenov gave Russia the lead with his second of the game
only to have Alexei Ugarov answer for Belarus sending the
contest into overtime.

With no scoring in the extra session, the game went to the
first shootout of the championships.

Alexei Morozov and Sergei Mozyakin scored for Russia while
Evgeni Nabokov earned his first win of the championships since
joining the team from the San Jose Sharks, stopping two-of-three
Belarus shooters.

Also on Friday, Slovakia beat Slovenia 5-1 in a relegation-bracket game at Halifax. France was to play Italy in a relegation game in Quebec City.