Finns, Russia go through, Slovaks upset Canada

Alexander Fedorets
Finnish players celebrate scoring against team USA during a quarter-final game of the IIHF International Ice Hockey World Championship in Helsinki

Holders Finland advanced to the semi-finals of the world ice hockey championships with a last-gasp winner against the United States on Thursday, but Olympic champions Canada were shocked by Slovakia.

Slovakia claimed a 4-3 victory over Canada as Jesse Joensuu netted a double for Finland's 3-2 quarter-final victory over the USA.

"We knew that we had to play our best to beat the US," said Finland coach Jukka Jalonen. "I'm very happy for the boys. Everybody gave a great effort."

Joensuu opened for the Finns, spurred on by a capacity 13,000-strong home crowd, 13:27 into the second period.

Anaheim Ducks center Kyle Palmieri levelled just 11 seconds later with club team-mate Bobby Ryan putting the USA into the lead 1:39 into the third period.

Minnesota Wild center Miko Koivu equalised at 53:02, but it was Joensuu who was the hero, scoring the home country's winning goal, and his second of the match, with just nine seconds to go.

Earlier the Slovaks, world champions in 2002, got off to a lively start with goals from Florida Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky and 37-year-old veteran Miroslav Satan.

But the Canadians fought back with three unanswered goals through Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane, Carolina Hurricanes center Jeff Skinner and Vancouver Canucks left winger Alexandre Burrows.

Slovakia's Milan Bartovic levelled at 53:25, and San Jose Sharks center Michal Handzus netted a powerplay winner with just 2:28 remaining in the third period.

"Canada were the favourites but my players didn't want to go home yet. And the win was the best possible gift for my birthday," said Slovakia coach Vladimir Vujtek, who was 65 on Thursday.

In Stockholm, Russia had to battle through two tough periods against an obstinate Norway before running out 5-2 winners.

Washington Capitals skipper Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Popov both scored early for Russia for a 2-1 lead before the first interval as Norwary replied through their right winger Per-Age Skroder.

The championship's leading scorer Patrick Thoresen carried on his form as he picked up his 18th point (7 goals + 11 assists) scoring on powerplay just 28sec into the second to pull the scores level at 2-2.

But in the third Norway failed to keep up the pace and Montreal Canadiens' rear guard Alexei Yemelin put Russia ahead again.

Teammate Nikolai Zherdev and defender Ilya Nikulin added one apiece late on to secure Russia's ninth win over Norway at the worlds in as many matches.

"It was the first play-off match for this team and the guys were a bit nervous from the start," Russian coach Zinetulla Bilyaletdinov said.

"Luckily, later in the match they managed to calm down and began playing their normal hockey. Ovechkin and (Alexander) Syomin played well after a long flight from Washington, both earning points. I'd say they seriously strengthened the team."

In the last quarter-final, the Czech Republic, who won their last world crown in 2010, saw off co-hosts Sweden 4-3.

Dallas Stars left winger Loui Eriksson put Sweden ahead at 7:10 but the Czechs replied positively for a 2-1 lead before the first break as their forwards Petr Nedved and Jiri Novotny scored one apiece.

Nashville Predators right wing Martin Erat increased the Czech lead at 30:27 on powerplay but Detroit Red Wings left winger Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Eriksson scored 45 sec before and after the second break to pull the scores level.

Ottawa Senators winger Milan Michalek had the few Czech supporters in Stockholm Globe arena on their feet with just 29sec remaining when he scored the winning goal.

In Saturday's semi-finals Finland will face Russia in a replay of the last year's semi-final, while Slovakia will take on former compatriots Czech Republic.