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Russia overpower Finland to win ice hockey worlds Ovechkin, Yevgeni shine

MINSK, May 26, (AFP): Russia’s ice hockey team avenged their defeat at the Sochi Olympics as watched by President Vladimir Putin they overpowered Finland 5-2 to take gold at the world championships in Minsk on Sunday. As Western-friendly chocolate baron Petro Poroshenko claimed victory in Sunday’s presidential elections in Ukraine, Putin was focusing on an ice hockey game in which Russia claimed a fifth world title. “The head of state wanted to personally support the Russian team playing in the final of the world hockey championships,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agency ITAR-TASS. It was the first meeting between the two teams in a world championship final, but Russia suffered a major upset at their home Olympics three months ago when they lost to the Finns in the quarter-finals. Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko hailed the victory as “a spectacular finish to our most successful winter season”.

“It’s very nice that our hockey players, who seriously upset our sports lovers at the Sochi Games, managed to finish this season with such a great win,” said Mutko. “We owed our fans this win after a poor performance in Sochi,” said left wing Danis Zaripov. “The gold medal is what we came here for, no other result would do. “We acted as a single unit throughout the tournament and it a victory for everyone.” Zaripov collected a goal and two assists, while Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovski produced 24 saves. Russia came into the final without their manager Oleg Znarok, who has been handed a one-match ban for making a throat-slashing gesture toward Swedish assistant coach Rikard Gronborg following their verbal altercation at the end of the Saturday’s semi-final.

But Russia opened the score halfway into the first period through winger Sergei Shirokov, who beat Finland ‘keeper Pekka Rinne with a wrist shot on powerplay. Finland levelled through IFK Helsinki forward Iiro Pakarinen, who sent the puck in between Bobrovski’s pads with just three seconds remaining before the first intermission. Olli Palola lifted Finland 2-1 up 6:51 into the second period when Zaripov was in the sin bin but Washington Capitals sharpshooter Alexander Ovechkin levelled again just 43sec later. Pittsburgh Penguins center Yevgeni Malkin put Russia into a 3-2 lead with 4:24 remaining in the second period when Russia were on two-man powerplay. Zaripov and Viktor Tikhonov added one apiece in the third period both on powerplay to secure Russia’s win and make up for the team’s flop at their home Sochi Games.

Finland coach Erkka Westerlunf lamented: “We had chances to win today but it’s impossible to win the championship when you’re sitting in the penalty box. “We were penalised too often tonight and paid the price for lack of dicipline.” Earlier on Sunday last year’s champions Sweden beat the Czech Republic 3-0 to take the bronze medal. The Swedes opened the score after 4:28 through winger Joakim Lindstrom, who sent the puck in from behind the goal line with a help of a ricochet. Another left winger Simon Hjalmarsson added another with 4:16 remaining before the first intermission to give Sweden a comfortable 2-0 advantage. In the second period the Czechs had five powerplay opportunities but failed to find the net as New York Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson was in complete command of his net.

Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund rounded off the scoring 8:22 into the third when he netted Sweden’s third goal with a wrist shot from the left face-off circle to secure his team’s well-deserved win. Czech star Jaromir Jagr announced he was calling time on his international career after the game. The 42-year-old New Jersey Devils right wing said he would not play next season, even though the worlds will take place at home in Prague and Ostrava. “That was my last game for the Czech Republic,” Jagr said after the defeat, which left the former six-time world champions empty-handed for the second straight worlds. “I’ll be back to play in the NHL next year, but I won’t play for my country again.”



  



 

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