PRAGUE (Reuters) - Canada shut out the Czech Republic 2-0 in the ice hockey world championship on Saturday to set up a final against Russia, who rode four late goals to a 4-0 win over the United States.
The Russians will take on a NHL-stocked Canadian squad on Sunday night that has led all nations in scoring and did not lose a game at the group stage.
Against the Czechs, Canada only mustered two goals due in large part to Czech goaltender Ondrej Pavelec who faced 41 shots and made a number of big saves to keep his team in the game.
The Czechs, playing in front of a boisterous crowd, were energized at the start and tested Canadian goalie Mike Smith a number of times.
Canada opened the scoring midway through the first period when Jordan Eberle held off a defenseman before sweeping it to Taylor Hall, who tapped into the net for his seventh goal of the tournament.”It’s been a while since Canada has been in the finals and we are aware of that,” Hall said. “There are a lot of guys on this team looking for their first world championship.”
Jason Spezza doubled the lead in the second period when he whipped in a wrist shot from just over the blue line.
The Czechs appeared to have cut the advantage minutes later when a long slapshot floated into the net but the officials ruled out the goal.
Canada were also able to limit 43-year-old Czech great Jaromir Jagr in what could be his last tournament for the national team.
“Each member of the team came here because he wants a medal and even though it is not going to be the finals we will fight for it tomorrow,” said Czech forward Petr Koukal, whose team will face the United States in the third place game on Sunday.
Traditional rivals the United States and defending champions Russia were scoreless for the first two periods of their game.
Both goalies were sharp early with Russia’s Sergei Bobrovski, who turned away 35 shots on the night, making a number of point blank saves.
Sergei Mozyakin finally broke through seven minutes into the third when he unleashed a wrist shot from just over the blue line.
Russia were rewarded again three minutes later when Alexander Ovechkin, who flew in to join the Russian team after his NHL team was eliminated from the playoffs, pounced on a sloppy back-pass to whip a goal past U.S. goalkeeper Connor Hellebuyck, who faced 29 shots.
“Our group was more experienced and I think that was the difference,” Russian defenseman Dmitri Kulikov said. “We kept up the pressure on them and were able to make them make some mistakes.”
Vadim Shipachyov added a third goal before Evgeni Malkin rounded out the scoring for the Russians with an empty net goal.
Editing by Ed Osmond/Gene Cherry