Russia earns golden opportunity against Canada

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Anton Khudobin helped Russia set up a gold-medal showdown with Canada in the World Junior Championship, making 22 saves in a 7-2 semifinal victory over the defending champion United States on Sunday night.

Canada beat the Czech Republic 3-1 in the first semifinal to advance to the championship game for the fourth straight year.

Russia's Sergei Shirokov broke a 2-2 tie late in the first period, and Evgeni Malkin made it 4-2 midway through the third. Alexander Ovechkin, the top pick in the 2004 NHL draft, and Malkin added empty-net goals, and Mikhail Yunkov completed the scoring with a second left.

"It definitely wasn't our best game tonight," Team USA forward Drew Stafford said. "For whatever reason, they had it and we didn't."

Enver Lisin and Ovechkin scored power-play goals in the first 5 minutes, but Robbie Schremp and Patrick O'Sullivan countered with power-play goals of their own to tie it.

"We were confident tonight," Lisin said. "We thought this game would be different, because we had some unlucky bounces last time we played. We felt we were stronger after the first game. We deserved this win and we're excited to play Canada in the final.''

The United States, which beat Russia 5-4 in the preliminary round, will face the Czech Republic in the bronze-medal game, to be played before the title game Tuesday.

"We're disappointed, but it's an honor to play for a medal," USA coach Scott Sandelin said. "We realize the gold is out of our hands, so we have to concentrate on getting the bronze, and that's what we're going to do.''

In the first semifinal, Jeff Carter opened the scoring for Canada in the first period, and Nigel Dawes and Patrice Bergeron added goals 2:42 apart in the second. Jeff Glass made 10 saves, allowing only Rostislav Olesz's short-handed goal in the third period.

"It was a really solid game for us,'' Canadian forward Clarke MacArthur said. "That's the best kind of game we could have had for a semifinal game. We got tested.''

Canada, seeking its first title since 1997, is 5-0 in the tournament and has outscored its opponents 35-6.

"We knew this would be a tougher game where we would really have to compete and play hard in the trenches, creating shots in the trenches," Canadian coach Brent Sutter said. "It wasn't an easy game. Our defense continued to stay with it. Part of being a good defensive team is being a good puck-possession team, and we handled the puck well."

In relegation play, Andrez Sekera and Peter Olvecky scored third-period goal to help Slovakia beat Belarus 2-1.

Belarus took a 1-0 lead in the second period when Konstantin Zakharov fired a wrist shot from the left circle and beat Slovakia goalie Jaroslav Halak over the right shoulder.

Sekera slammed a one-timer past Belarus goalie Stepan Goryachevskikh midway through the third, tying the score. Olvecky scored the game-winner with less than four minutes remaining, slipping the puck in off a feed from forward Richard Jenick.

Slovakia (3-2) has won both of its games in relegation play. Belarus (1-4) falls to 0-2. The top two teams in relegation are included in next year's tournament field, in Vancouver, Canada. The bottom two are sent to qualifying rounds.