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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Holds Off Finland to Top Table

APEvgeni Malkin, bottom, and Alexander Frolov celebrating during Russia's 5-4 win over Finland in Moscow on Tuesday.
Russia beat Finland 5-4 in a wide-open contest at the ice hockey World Championship on Tuesday to clinch the top spot in Group D.

The Russians, urged on by a capacity 14,000-strong home crowd at the new Khodynka Arena, came out strong at the start, looking to end their 13-year title drought on home ice.

Their top line of Alexei Morozov-Sergei Zinovyev-Danis Zaripov, who combined for 14 points in an 8-1 thrashing of Ukraine on Sunday, again led the offensive, contributing two goals and four assists against the previously unbeaten Finns.

The game, however, was marred by a mass brawl early in the second period.

Canadian referee Guy Pellerin handed Russia forward Morozov an extra two-minute penalty for roughing.

Morozov was able to redeem himself after serving the penalty. When Finland's Jarkko Ruutu received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for a vicious elbow to the head of Russia captain Pyotr Schastlivy, Morozov made the Finns pay by notching his fifth goal of the tournament for a 4-1 lead.

The home team looked like it had put the game out of reach but the Finns came back, scoring three times in the final period.

Schastlivyi got what turned out to be the winning goal at 52:21, while Nikolai Kulemin, Zaripov and Sergei Gonchar also scored for the hosts.

"We kept our focus for two periods, but in the third we probably subconsciously relaxed a little bit," Russia coach Vyacheslav Bykov said.

"But the main thing, we were able to hang on and win the game."

Tuomo Ruutu, Jukka Hentunen, Jere Lehtinen and Petteri Nummelin replied for the Finns, who finished second in Group D with two wins and a loss.

"Russia played a very strong game, their power play was excellent," Finland coach Erkka Westerlund told reporters.

"We took it too easily at the beginning and didn't press them enough. We played much better in the third period but it wasn't enough."

Asked to comment on the Ruutu penalty, the coach said: "I didn't see the hit, but yes, it was a very costly penalty for us. Maybe he should have got two minutes, not five."

Ruutu said he did not deserve the penalty.

"I was taught that you're allowed to hit in this game," said the Pittsburgh Penguins left wing, who was also involved in a similar incident at last year's Turin Olympics, injuring Czech top player Jaromir Jagr.

"It was a legal hit," Ruttu said. "I kept my elbows down, didn't try to hurt [Shchastlivy]. He came out on the ice the next shift. What does it tell you?"

Both teams already had advanced to the qualifying round. Russia improved to 3-0 while Finland dropped to 2-1.

In Mytischi, Jaroslav Bednar scored the winning goal with 1:08 remaining to give the Czech Republic a 4-3 victory over the United States and the top spot in the Group B standings.

Bednar provided the heroics for the Czech Republic with overtime approaching.

Jan Marek passed from behind the net, and Bednar, the Czechs' 13th forward -- who did not play in their opening game against Belarus -- tapped it under John Grahame's leg.

"Both teams played hard and pretty good. It was the first tough game for both teams. We and the Americans played 100 percent," Czech goalkeeper Roman Cechmanek said.

After an evenly matched opening period, the Czechs went ahead on a power play with 3:08 remaining. Grahame was protecting the left side of his net from the fast approaching Jaroslav Hlinka, but the Czech made a pass to Petr Caslava, who knocked the puck into the gaping net.

Defenseman Ryan Suter equalized for the Americans on a power play 4:42 into the second period, his snap shot from the point deflecting off the right post and then Cechmanek's backside into the net.

Buoyed by a loud, partisan crowd, the Czechs pulled ahead again at 14:37 when Zbynek Irgl stormed down the wing to beat Grahame.

At 7:51 in the third, Marek snatched a loose puck and made a quick pass to Petr Tenkrat, who made it 3-1 when he got it through Grahame's short side.

The U.S. responded with two goals in 98 seconds, however.

Chad Larose of Carolina scored short-handed, rifling the puck from the middle of the faceoff circle through traffic at 13:59, and Andrew Hutchinson put slap shot from the point through Cechmanek's pads.

In Wednesday's early games, Jason Cirone scored two goals, including the winner in the championship's first ever 4-on-4 overtime session, to upset Latvia 4-3, and two goals from Michael Wolf helped Germany beat Norway 5-3.

Both teams advanced to the qualification round.

Reuters, AP