Russia Left to Lick Its Wounds

Russia was indulging in a bout of soul-searching Monday after watching its chief rival, Canada, lift the ice hockey World Championship trophy for a record 24th time.

The Russians were left licking their wounds once their dream of winning gold on home ice was shattered with a 2-1 semifinal defeat by Finland in overtime on Saturday.

"Suicide!" blared a front-page headline in the leading sports daily Sport-Express on Monday.

"Finnish woodcutters destroyed the Russian Dream Team," wrote Komsomolskaya Pravda.

It was the country's first ever World Championship defeat in Moscow, which was hosting its fifth tournament since the competition began in 1957.

Russia coach Vyacheslav Bykov said it was a case of bad luck: "It was just an accident," he said after his side beat Sweden 3-1 in a consolation game for third place Sunday to salvage some pride.

Canada gave the Russians a master class in how to beat the Finns, putting the game away early with two power-play goals in the first period to win the final 4-2.

Most hockey experts had expected a Russia-Canada final, involving the sport's two superpowers, which until Sunday had won 23 world titles each.

While the Canadians lived up to their side of the bargain, the hosts faltered, prolonging their 14-year title drought for at least another year.

With their rivals coming to Moscow without many of their top players, the Russians had been strong favorites to claim their first gold since 1993 after assembling a talent-laden team, supported by a partisan, flag-waving crowd.

Still it was not enough, as Russia paid the price for wasting numerous scoring chances against the Finns early in the game.

Injuries also took their toll.

The Russians lost to injuries the tournament's top goal-scorer, Alexei Morozov, leading defensemen Andrei Markov and captain Pyotr Shchastlivy.

"The injuries affected our power play as we had to reshuffle most of our lines," Bykov said after the Finland loss.

Despite missing out on gold, there were some bright spots in Russia's play, particularly the performance of Evgeni Malkin, who was named in the tournament's All-Star team.

The 20-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins rookie center, the youngest member of the Russian team, was undoubtedly its best player. He scored several spectacular goals, highlighted by a great individual effort in a 4-0 quarterfinal win over the Czech Republic.

While Malkin stood out, Alexander Ovechkin was a major disappointment.

Last year's NHL rookie of the year was almost invisible during the tournament, scoring just one goal in the opening game, a 9-1 thrashing of Denmark.