Finland and Russia survive second round scares

Fri May 9, 2008 4:41pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - Niko Kapanen's third period goal spared Finland's blushes 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 the Big Red Machine moved into gear and rallied for a 4-3 shootout victory improving their unblemished 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 an heroic effort from Latvian netminder Edgars Masalskis, who was bombarded by 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' goal but could not put one past the valiant 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's shoulder for the winner.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Rick Nash (61) scores the game winning goal on Norway's goalie Pal Grotnes during the third period of action at the 2008 IIHF World Hockey Championships in Halifax, May 8, 2008. REUTERS/Paul Darrow</p>