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.
“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.
Editing by Miles Evans