HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - Canada survived an early scare before romping to an 8-2 win over Norway and Russia crushed Switzerland 6-0 to send the two rivals into the world championship semi-finals on Wednesday.
In contrast to those lop-sided routs, Nordic rivals Sweden and Finland needed 3-2 overtime victories to book their spots in the final four.
In Quebec City, Mattias Weinhandl spared Swedish blushes when he backhanded a loose puck past Milan Hnlicka to lift the Olympic champions past the Czech Republic.
Sami Lepisto was the hero for Finland as they held on to edge the U.S. and setup a rematch of last year’s semi-final against unbeaten Russia.
The other semi-final pits defending champion Canada against Sweden on Friday.
Although Canada has captured a record 24 titles and Norway was making its first quarter-final appearance, the favorites approached the contest cautiously following a tight 2-1 round-robin win over the same opponents.
When Dany Heatley struck just 27 seconds into the opening period with his tournament-best 10th goal, Canada appeared eager to make sure there would be no repeat of the preliminary round nail-biter.
But the Norwegians refused to be brushed aside by the mighty Canadians, who needed two periods to take control and extend their world championship unbeaten run 16 games.
”Definitely relieved when we got a bit of cushion,“ Canadian netminder Cam Ward told reporters after his ninth consecutive championship win. ”We knew it was going to be a tough game going in after the 2-1 win in the round-robin.
“Once again, they held on tough and until the mid-second period they gave us a bit of scare.”
Deadlocked at 2-2 midway through the second, Canada broke open the tight contest with powerplay goals from Jonathan Toews and Derek Roy to jump 4-2 ahead.
Roy added another before the end of the period and Rick Nash, the MVP of last year’s tournament, ended any thoughts of a Norway comeback with two quick goals to open the third.
Russia, bidding to end an embarrassing 15-year gold medal drought, made a flying start with three goals in the opening seven minutes and doubled their lead to 6-0 in the second.
Washington Capitals team mates Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov contributed a goal each, Maxim Afinogenov tallied twice and Danis Zaripov once.
Trailing 2-0 with just over four minutes to play, the U.S. shocked the Finns when Phil Kessel and Drew Stafford scored 37 seconds apart to tie the game at 2-2.
But the Americans were unable to complete the comeback, extending their 48-year world championship gold medal drought by at least another year.
Editing by Ed Osmond