HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - Russia and Canada remained on a collision course at the ice hockey world championships on Monday, completing qualification round play unbeaten to take top spot in their group standings.
With Prime Minister Stephen Harper looking on, Canada cruised to a 6-3 win over Finland in a rematch of last year’s gold medal final to clinch first place in Group F while Russia held on to stop Switzerland 5-3 to finish top of Group E.
The Swiss will not have to wait long for a shot at revenge, the Russian victory setting up a quarter-final rematch on Wednesday in Quebec City.
Defending champions Canada, bidding to become the first host country to win the title since the Soviet Union in 1986, will play either Latvia or Norway. Latvia will clash with Germany in the final qualification game later on Monday in a contest that will complete the final eight.
The other quarter-final pairings have Olympic champions Sweden taking on the Czech Republic while Finland and the United States will renew hostilities, in a rematch of their ill-tempered clash on Sunday that produced 202 minutes in penalties and saw three players handed game suspensions.
Ryan Getzlaf scored on the first shot of the game 33 seconds into the opening period and Canada never trailed and handed the Finns their first loss of the tournament as the hosts rolled to their 15th consecutive world championship win.
Dany Heatley scored a pair giving the Ottawa Senators sniper a tournament best nine goals while captain Shane Doan also tallied twice and Patrick Sharp added a short-handed effort.
“We wanted to get that number one seed and treated it as a do-or-die,” said Sharp, who had seven short-handed goals for the Chicago Blackhawks to lead the NHL this season. “We’re taking one game at a time.”
Russia, without a gold medal since 1993, stormed to a 4-0 lead then fended off a spirited comeback bid by the Swiss, who could of taken top spot in the group with a win.
Maxim Sushinskiy led Russia with a pair of goals while NHL scoring champion Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, Dmitri Kalinin and Sergei Fedorov each found the net once.
Switzerland rallied in the third behind a powerplay tally from Raffaele Sannitz and a shorthanded effort from Julien Vauclair to trim the Russian lead to 4-2.
But Sushinskiy stalled the Swiss comeback with a late third period goal.
Earlier, Norway had a chance to book their first ever ticket to the championship quarter-finals by beating the U.S. but came out flat as the Americans strolled to 9-1 win.
Brandon Dubinsky had a hat-trick for the U.S. while Dustin Brown tallied twice and Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Paul Martin and Phil Kessel each found the net once.
Mats Trygg ruined Robert Esche’s shutout bid, scoring Norway’s lone goal midway through the second period.
“We got spanked,” said Norway captain Tommy Jakobsen. “We stopped playing as a team. They scored one, then two and we had to chase all the time.”
Editing by Miles Evans