Russia has reached the semifinals of the world championships after overcoming determined Norwegian resistance to win 5-2 on Thursday, as Alex Ovechkin opened his account at the tournament with an early goal.
The result puts Russia in the semifinals for the six world championships in a row and ends Norway’s dream of breaking into the last four for the first time.
While the margin of victory over Norway was greater than in Russia’s 4-2 group stage win, Norway had a better opportunity to pull off a surprise victory, with the scores level at 2-2 until early in the third period.
Washington Capital winger Ovechkin opened the scoring for Russia on 8 minutes, in his first match since returning from the NHL playoffs, when he took control of the puck by the boards behind the goal line and scored with a deflection shot off Norway goaltender Lars Haugen’s left skate.
Norway responded barely four minutes later. Per-Age Skroder started and finished the move, passing to Mads Hansen who fed Norway top scorer Patrick Thoresen, whose shot rebounded for Skroder to score from a narrow angle.
Alexander Popov restored Russia’s lead just after the 14-minute mark as Russia switched from defense to attack in two seconds.
Evgeny Ryasensky collected the puck behind the goal line and passing to Alexei Yemelin, who played in Popov with a precise breakaway pass that left the Avangard Omsk forward in the perfect position to beat Haugen.
Defenseman Evgeny Biryukov picked up a penalty for slashing with a minute remaining of the first period and this returned to hurt Russia early in the second as the Norwegians scored on the remainder of the power play.
Thoresen positioned his stick perfectly to deflect in Morten Ask’s low shot and add to his championship-leading scoring tally, which stretched to 17 points.
Russia went 16-4 on shots in the second period but could not find a breakthrough despite three penalties for the Norwegians and a prolonged scramble in front of goal as Haugen held firm.
With 55 seconds gone in the third period, Russia struck. Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk played the puck back to Yemelin, just ahead of the blue line, who jinked left then right to shift Lars Erik Spets and get a clear view of goal before firing a fierce long-range shot into Haugen’s net.
Ex-NHL winger Nikolay Zherdev added Russia’s fourth, striking the puck in off the frame of the goal from Biryukov’s assist with nine minutes remaining, before Ilya Nikulin made it 5-2 with a big slap shot, taking advantage of the extra space near the blue line as the Norwegians crowded around Haugen’s goal on a Russian power play.
Russia could have had six when Capitals pair Ovechkin and Alexander Semin broke away with two minutes left, but Semin decided against passing to Ovechkin and Haugen easily gathered his shot.
In Thursday’s first game, Slovakia reached the semifinals for the first time since 2004 with a surprise 4-3 win over Canada.
Russia’s semifinal opponent will be either the United States or Finland, to be decided later Thursday. Sweden takes on the Czech Republic in the last of the day's four quarterfinal matches.
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