Russia blank Finland to set up Canada clash

Fri Sep 23, 2016 4:08am EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - Russia claimed a do-or-die 3-0 victory over Finland on Thursday to advance to the semi-finals of the World Cup of Hockey and set up a mouth-watering showdown with arch-rivals Canada.

Canada, who stormed through preliminary round play unbeaten to grab top spot in Group A, will face off against Russia on Saturday while Sweden, winners of Group B, take on Team Europe on Sunday.

Needing a win to clinch a spot in the last four, Russia got second period goals 79 seconds apart from Vladimir Tarasenko and Ivan Telegin, then rode the netminding of Sergei Bobrovsky to victory as they dashed Team North America's hopes of advancing.

Evgeni Malkin added a powerplay goal in the third while Bobrovsky stopped all 21 shots he faced for his first shutout of the tournament.

Canada-Russia is hockey's most storied rivalry and Saturday's semi-final shapes up as another classic with Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, the sport's two biggest names, set to lead their respective teams into battle.

"It's Canada verses Russia, it's not two players," said Ovechkin, who set up Russia's first goal. "Two teams with a great history, it's going to be tough, it's going to be hard playing here in Canada, but it is also going to be fun.

"Tomorrow we are going to think how we beat Canada. The opportunity is huge."

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia's status as a hockey superpower has faded, causing the rivalry to lose some of its heat but none of the animosity.   Continued...

Sep 22, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada;  Team Finland defenceman Olli Maatta (3) skates with the puck past a poke check from Team Russia forward Vladislav Namestnikov (90) during preliminary round play in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports