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2006 OLYMPICS: Czech Republic Takes Bronze

Saturday, 02.25.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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2006 OLYMPICS: Czech Republic Takes Bronze
TURIN, Italy (AP) - The Czech Republic shut out Russia in a matchup worthy of a gold medal. Too bad they were only playing for the bronze.

Tomas Vokoun, filling in for Dominik Hasek, made 12 of his 28 saves in the third period and the Czech Republic skated off with a 3-0 victory over Russia in men's hockey on Saturday night.

Both teams had gold-medal hopes but had to settle for a bronze game after dropping semifinals a night earlier to Nordic countries. Sweden knocked out the Czechs, and Finland topped Russia - which didn't score in the medal round.

Russia, which lost 4-0 on Friday after winning five straight, had its offense bolstered by the return of teenager Evgeni Malkin, who had to sit out against Finland because of an infraction against Canada in the quarters.

But the Russians lost Ilya Kovalchuk - its second-leading scorer - after he was ejected for an elbow to the face of Pavel Kubina behind the Czech net in the second period that left the Tampa Bay defenseman bloodied.

Marek Zidlicky made Russia pay when he ripped a shot in from the blue line off a pass from NHL-leading scorer Jaromir Jagr at 6:36. Martin Straka sealed it with 8 seconds left with an empty-net goal on the Czech's 15th and final shot.

Jagr was injured in the second period and went to the locker room. He returned to the bench in the third period but didn't play.

Kubina received his bronze medal after the game while wearing street clothes.

Martin Erat gave the Czechs the lead just 4:48 in after taking a pass from David Vyborny, who just moments earlier knocked him down in a center-ice collision.

The Russians put the pressure on late and outshot the Czechs 12-2 in the final period. They had a goal by Pavel Datsyuk of Detroit waved off because he was ruled to have struck the puck with a high stick.

It was the second Olympic medal for the Czech Republic in the three times NHL players have been featured in the games. They captured gold in 1998 with Hasek in the net.

Russia, the bronze medalists four years ago in Salt Lake City, left the Olympics without a men's hockey medal for just the second time since joining the competition as the Soviet Union for the 1956 Games.

For the fourth straight tournament, Russia has failed to win the gold after taking it home six times in seven tries. These teams met in the medal round for the third straight Olympics. Russia won the quarterfinal matchup in 2002 after losing the title match to the Hasek and the Czechs in Nagano.

The Russians didn't have to worry about Hasek this time since he was knocked out in the opening contest of this tournament. But Vokoun and the Czech penalty killers were more than up to the task.

Vokoun, who helped lead the Czechs to the hockey world championship last spring, regained his starting job from Milan Hnilicka, who got the opening nod in the quarterfinal win over Slovakia and in the semifinal defeat against Sweden.

Hnilicka was replaced by Vokoun in Friday night's 7-3 loss after allowing five goals in just over a period and a half.

Things didn't look good for the Czechs in the opening minutes. They gave Russia the first of seven power plays just 49 seconds in and then started running into each other about a minute after returning to full strength.

Erat carried the puck near the red line when Vyborny rammed into him and knocked the puck away and onto the stick of Russian captain Alex Kovalev.

It didn't hurt the Czechs, and shortly after they had the goal that would give them the bronze.

Vyborny sent a pass from the goal line out to Erat in the left circle for a one-timed shot that clanked in off the post.

Sweden will face Finland for the gold medal on Sunday, the final day of Olympic competition.

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