Irgl lifts Czechs in OT; Finns blank Belarus

RIGA, Latvia -- Zbynek Irgl scored 7:58 into overtime to
give the defending champion Czech Republic a 4-3 victory over
Russia on Thursday and a semifinal spot at the World Hockey

The Czechs will play Finland, a 3-0 winner over Belarus on Thursday, as defenseman Petteri Nummelin
assisted two goals. Olympic champion
Sweden plays Canada in Saturday's other semifinal.

Russia, which hasn't won a world title since 1993, looked
stronger early in the overtime session, when both teams played with
four skaters.

But Czech goalie Milan Hnilicka stopped everything.

The game-winner was a gem. David Vyborny won a faceoff in the
Russian end, then fed the unchecked Irgl with a perfect pass near
the goal. Irgl deked Maxim Sokolov, then swept a backhander past
the Russian goalie from a tough angle.

Russia's Alexei Mikhnov forced the overtime by knocking in a
rebound past Hnilicka with 1:05 left in regulation.

Eleven seconds earlier, Russia had pulled Sokolov for an extra
attacker. The gamble paid off. The Russians won the crucial faceoff
in the Czech zone, Hnilicka gave up a rebound off Vitali Atyushov's
shot and Mikhnov scored, the puck hitting the right post before
bouncing in.

It was the second straight game in which Mikhnov notched a late
equalizer. He scored against Sweden in their second-round finale.

Alexander Ovechkin, one of the NHL's top rookies this season
with the Washington Capitals, gave Russia a 1-0 lead at 2:30 -- his
sixth goal in the tournament.

Tomas Kaberle of the Toronto Maple Leafs tied it with a
power-play goal early in the second period.

Jaroslav Hlinka notched another power-play goal to give the
Czechs a 2-1 lead at 3:49 of the third. Sergei Mozyakin evened the
score 1:11 later, scoring past Hnilicka.

With the Russians playing shorthanded again, Patrik Stefan of
the Atlanta Thrashers put the Czechs ahead one more time at 7:06,
connecting with a low shot.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.