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MOSCOW, May 21. /TASS/. Without losing a single game at the 2016 IIHF World Championship, held in Russia this month, the Finnish national squad recovered from a single missed goal in the opening period in Saturday’s semifinal match in Moscow and defeated hosts Russia 3-1 on its impressive way to this year’s champions title.
Playing against Finland in front of home crowds had a special meaning for the Russian players as everybody remember well how they lost to the Finnish squad on home ice in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and then suffered a semifinal 1-2 defeat at the 2007 IIHF World Championship in Moscow.
Having all of this in mind and going into the third minute of the first period Russia’s Sergei Shirokov found a rebound in the Finnish goaltending zone and scored his third goal at this championship opening the score of the match in favor of the hosts.
The long-time rivals each had an opportunity to score on the power play in the opening period but none of them executed their two-minute players’ advantage and the score remained at 1-0, when the squads retreated to their locker rooms before the middle period.
The Finns answered hosts Russia five minutes after the break, when 18-year-old Sebastian Aho cannoned the puck into the Russian net past Sergei Bobrovski using his team’s power play advantage to tie the score at 1-1.
It was not enough for unstoppable team Finland, which boasted a perfect record before this game of 8 victories in all matches played at the championship, and with less than five minutes left Finnish forward Jussi Jokinen backhanded the puck into the left upper corner of the Russian goal.
Some two minutes later, with Russia’s Alexander Ovechkin serving a penalty for interference, it was Finland’s forward Aho again to take advantage of the power play and score the goal increasing his team’s dominance to 3-1 over Russia.
Although the Russian team went on a frantic offensive in front of home crowds in the closing period, the Finnish defense remained solid and the closing 20-minute stretch of the game saw no goals scored before the final siren.
"We had chances, played equally but the opponent had more luck," Russia’s titled netminder Sergei Bobrovski told journalists right after the game.
"All I can say is that the guys fought until the very end," Bobrovski said. "The opponent had less chances of shooting on the goal, but they were much better at doing this."
Commenting on the match, Russia’s 23-year-old Roman Lyubimov, who recorded four goals and four assists at this championship for Russia, told journalists "We started good, had a good goal."
He added that the pressure on the team exerted by fans playing on home ice - "It is not an excuse, we tried to fight back, but failed."
Finland’s opponents for the gold medal match will be decided later on Saturday in another semifinal match in Moscow between Reigning World Champions Canada and last year’s bronze medalists team USA.
The Russian squad, who are the 2015 World Vice Champions, will clash for the bronze against one of the North American national teams - Canada or the United States - on Sunday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. local time (13:15 GMT), before the final match at 8:45 p.m. Moscow time (17:45 GMT).
Asked to dwell on the match for the bronze tomorrow, Luybimov said: "It is certainly difficult settling into the winning mood in front of home crowds, but tomorrow we will do our best to take the bronze."
Bobrovski said replying to the same question: "Tomorrow will be a new day and a new game, so we will be readying to play a different match for the bronze."
This is the 7th IIHF World Championship held in Russia as it was hosted by Moscow five times, namely in 1957, 1973, 1979, 1986 and 2007, and once by St. Petersburg in 2000.