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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine Silences Russian NHLers 5-4

Russian hockey's Dream Team turned in a nightmare performance Thursday, twice blowing three-goal leads on its way to a 5-4 overtime loss to Ukraine in a semifinal of the Spartak Cup tournament.

The Russian All-Star team, with a lineup dominated by National Hockey League players, started strong and seemed eager to erase any lingering doubts about their highly hyped reputation. Coverage in the Russian sports media had suggested the millionaires "from across the ocean" might not be worthy of all the adulation after losing Monday's tournament opener 3-1 to Spartak Moscow. But the All-Stars earned a reprieve from criticism on Tuesday, thumping Neman of Belarus 9-4.

But with Thursday's loss, the flickering All-Stars' second in three games, the naysayers are free to let loose.

With the victory, Ukraine will now play Spartak for the final of the 6-team tournament, now in its sixth year. Spartak won Thursday's other semifinal, edging Kazakhstan's national team 3-2 in a tight checking game.

Ukraine (3-0-0) leads the tournament with a record of nine points, Spartak (2-0-1) is second with five points, and Russian All-Stars and Kazakhstan each have two points and identical 1-2-0 records.

On Thursday, Detroit Red Wings' veteran superstar center Vyacheslav Kozlov opened the scoring at 9:32 of the first with a backhander through traffic in front of Ukraine goalie Igor Karpenko.

Ukraine's Konstantine Butsenko, with two goals and an assist, was the offensive player of the game, putting on a show that included the game-winner 49 seconds into the five-minute overtime. His slap shot from the left slot beat Sergei Podtuzko, the Dynamo Moscow goalie, who had been flawless until 3:44 of the third period when his shutout hopes fell victim to a poke-in by Valentin Oletsky. His goal enlivened the sparse Sokolniki crowd and put the visitorson the board, trailing 3-1.

The All-Stars responded with a goal off a faceoff by Pittsburg Penguins winger Aleksey Morozov to again widen the lead to 3, but Ukraine's national team did not break. Instead, they exploded for four unanswered goals in just over eleven minutes, bookended by Butsenko's pair - a power-play goal and then the OT winner.

Forwards Vitaly Lytvynenko - who had an assist on Butsenko's first tally - and Vasily Bobronikov rounded out the scoring for Ukraine. Defensemen Alexander Savitsky and Sergei Klimentiev each had two assists.

With all its talent, why is a fair if not complete representation of Russia's NHL elite now playing for a runner-up spot in a domestic tournament?

Russian All-Stars' coach Viktor Shalimov was asked if untested line combinations on a newly formed team of all stars played a part in Thursday's result.

"It was experimental," he said after the game. "It's always difficult to predict what will happen out there."

The Russian All-Stars will be reduced to playing for third place against the Kazakhs at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Ukraine-Spartak final will be at 3 p.m. Sunday. The Russian All-Stars also play an exhibition game on Friday at 3 p.m., against a team of Russian old timers, some of whom have NHL and other international experience.

Sokolniki Ice Palace, 16 Sokolnichesky Val. Tel 268-6958. Nearest Metro Sokolniki. Tickets for each game cost 50 rubles.