Hockey Canada

Ovechkin completes Russia's comeback over Sweden

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The Canadian Press
5/11/2008 12:21:00 AM
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QUEBEC - Trying to hold off Alexander Ovechkin and his Russian bombers with only four defencemen was too much for undermanned Sweden.

Ovechkin took a feed from Washington Capitals teammate Alexander Semin and scored with six seconds left in the third period to lift Russia to a comeback 3-2 victory over Sweden on Saturday night.

In another game in Quebec City, it was Czech Republic 3, Belarus 2 in a shootout, while Canada trounced Germany 10-1 in Halifax. Slovakia beat Slovenia 4-3 and France won 6-4 over Italy in relegation play.

The win kept Russia in second place in Group E with nine points, two fewer than the Czech Republic, while Sweden remained fourth with six points but is in no danger of missing the quarter-finals.

The Swedes dressed only six defencemen because veteran Kenny Jonsson has a sore back and Niclas Wallin was serving the second game of a two-game suspension for a  hit that knocked Roman Wick unconscious during a 4-2 upset loss to Switzerland.

Only 10:02 into the game against Russia, defenceman Douglas Murray drove Alexei Morozov to the ice with a heavy hit, drawing a major penalty for hitting from behind and a game misconduct.

Russia's Ilya Kovalchuk jumped in and tussled with defenceman Anton Stralman. Both were tossed from the game.

That left four skaters on the Swedish blue-line, and they still nearly pulled off the win as Mattias Weinhandl and Tony Martensson scored goals between Alexander Semin for a 2-1 lead going into the third period.

Sergei Fedorov tied it at 4:57 and then Ovechkin got his fourth of the tournament past Henrik Lundqvist with time running down.

Russian coach Vyacheslav Bykov said Morozov was taken for tests but the results won't be known until Sunday.

Murray was not pleased with the call, saying he put a clean shoulder hit on the Russian forward.

"That's why he's not playing in the NHL any more - he can't take a good clean hit," Murray said of the former Pittsburgh Penguin. "It was a clean shoulder, nothing from behind.

"The fact that he looks back is not my problem. That's when you're supposed to step up and hit someone - when they're not looking."

Stralman said when he grabbed the player who jumped into the melee it just happened to be Kovalchuk, the Atlanta Thrashers scoring star.

"I just saw he went after Doug and I grabbed him out of there," said Stralman, who ended up pinned to the ice by Kovalchuk. "We were just wrestling a little bit. That's pretty much it."

That left Sweden with Alexander Edler, Jonas Frogren, Magnus Johnsson and Daniel Fernholm to man the blue-line, although forward Johan Andersson was slotted into some shifts on defence.

"I was proud of their work out there," said coach Bengt Gustafsson. "Andersson did a great job."

An IIHF spokesman said Murray got an automatic one-game suspension but would not be suspended any additional games. Stralman and Kovalechuk will not be suspended.

Gustafsson said that with Wallin coming back he will have a full six-man defence corps for their game Sunday night against the Czech Republic. Jonsson is listed as day-to-day and may also be ready.

In other action Sunday, Denmark faces Switzerland in Quebec City, while in Halifax, Norway plays Latvia and Finland faces the United States.

Both goaltenders Lundqvist and Evgeni Nabokov shone as Russia outshot Sweden 42-30 before 12,665 fans.

Radim Vrbata and Ales Kotalik scored in the shootout as the Czech Republic survived a scare from plucky Belarus to post a 3-2 victory before 8,504 fans.

Belarus was eliminated from the medal round, but earned an important point. With a win over Denmark on Monday, Belarus has a shot at 9th place in the tournament and an automatic berth in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"This was a big step in the right direction," said Belarus coach Curt Fraser.

Only Dmitri Meleshko was able to score in the shootout for Belarus, which was coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to Russia on Friday.

Tomas Rolinek and Ales Kotalik scored in regulation time for the Czechs, who had a 43-18 shot advantage, while Yaroslav Chupris and Andrei Kostitsyn scored for Belarus.

"They've got a good team," said Czech centre Tomas Plekanec. "They scored first and then it was tough to get through their wall."

Belarus didn't get a shot until the 10:00 mark of the opening period, but got some late pressure and turned it into a goal as Milan Hnilicka left a big rebound on Meleshko's shot. Two Belarus players fanned on it, but Chupris trailed in to slap it in at the 18:12 mark.

The Czech tied it at 16:53 of the middle period on a disputed goal as Zbynek Irgl's shot was pushed into the net by Rolinek's left skate. Video review upheld the goal, even though Rolinek appeared to reach with his skate to make sure the puck went in. Officials ruled that Rolinek's momentum carried the puck into the net.

"It was kicked in - it was as plain as day," said Fraser. "His hands were tied up.

"Whether it was a kicking motion or not, he directed the puck in with his foot."

Belarus got a break 9:50 into the third period as a clearing attempt went off the skate of a Czech player heading to the bench and stayed in the zone, so Kostitsyn could blast a shot from the high slot that went through Hnilicka's legs.

Kotalik tied it at 13:38 and he converted a feed from the corner by Tomas Plekanec.

It was another big game for goaltender Vitali Koval, who made 52 saves against Russia and another 41 against the Czechs.

"The team is changing generations now and this is a younger team," Koval said. "If we continue to play like this against the Russians and the Czechs, in the future we'll come out against them without any fear."

Ovechkin Scores (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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