Mon, May 05, 2008 - Page 19 News List

Finland, Sweden win world champ openers

AFP , HALIFAX, CANADA

Finland shook the rust off and the Swedes survived a scare as the favorites managed to prevail at the World Ice Hockey Championships on Saturday.

Mikko Koivu scored a shorthanded and a powerplay goal as reigning silver medalist Finland beat Germany 5-1 in their opening game at the Metro Centre arena.

Koivu scored his second goal of the game on a breakaway after forcing a turnover in the neutral zone to give favored Finland a 3-1 lead early in the third period.

“I just got the puck and I tried to beat the defense and make my move and it went in,” Koivu said. “It was a big goal for us.

Special teams were key Saturday for Finland who are tied for the lead in Group C with Slovakia, who beat Norway in the late game on Saturday.

Finland, Slovakia, Germany and Norway made up Group C in the 16-team event which is being contested in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Quebec City.

Finland reached the final last year in Moscow, losing to Canada 4-2, and are hoping to go all the way this time around.

“This was a good start, but of course the first game is never easy,” forward Teemu Selanne said. “Lots of our players hadn’t played in a month so we needed this win. We know we can do better.”

Antti-Jussi Niemi took a tripping penalty with a minute to go in the second giving Germany had a chance to tie the game 2-2 on the powerplay. But the Finns held them off, setting the stage for Koivu’s shorthanded marker after the break.

The Finns looked sluggish out of the gate, failing to convert on any of their first period chances.

“It is always tough to start a tournament,” Koivu said. “They [Germans] play good defense and are a solid team. But we looked pretty good.”

Koivu got them on the board on the powerplay with his first of two just under two minutes into the second period. Hannes Hyvonen made it 4-1 converting a two-on-one with Antti Pihlstrom less than two minutes later to give Finland a three-goal cushion.

Anaheim Ducks star Selanne rounded out the scoring for Finland with a nice second effort goal. Selanne fell at the blueline but was still able to make a short pass then jump up and got back into the play so he could finish off a nifty passing play.

“Three guys were coming to hit me,” Selanne said. “I got up and made it into the open and received a beautiful pass from Ossi [Vaananen].”

Florian Busch scored the lone goal for Germany as he beat goalie Niklas Backstrom with a slapshot from 20 feet on the power play in the second period.

Busch had been cleared to play earlier Saturday by the World Anti-Doping agency. His status with the Germans was in limbo for the past few weeks after he refused to take a doping test at his home two months ago.

Sweden survived the biggest scare of the day. Patric Hornqvist scored two goals as the Tre Kronor had to rally in the third period to beat underdog Belarus 6-5 at the Colisee in Quebec City.

Rickard Wallin scored the winner with just under 10 minutes to go in the third period for Sweden who outshot Belarus 46-24 in the game.

Dmitry Meleshko scored to give Belarus a 5-4 lead early in the third period.

Hornqvist then scored the second of his two on the night just over two minutes later to tie it and set the stage for Wallin’s winner.

Magnus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Robert Nilsson also scored for Sweden.

Alexei Ugarov scored early in the second period to make it 3-2 and give Belarus their first lead of the game after the Swedes jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period.

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