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Semin, Russia rout Slovakia in world championship

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Semin, Russia rout Slovakia in world championship

HELSINKI (AP) -- Russia won the world championship Sunday by defeating Slovakia 6-2.

Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals scored two goals and had an assist in the rout. Russia scored three times in the second period to take control.

Alexander Perezhogin, Alexei Tereshenko, Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and tournament MVP Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored the other goals, with Datsyuk and Alexander Ovechkin of the Capitals assisting on two.

Slovakia defender Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins scored both of his nation's goals, one on a blast from the blue line, the other from close range.

Russia, the champion in 2008 and 2009, returned to the title after finishing fourth last year. It did not lose in 10 games and finished the tournament with a plus-30 goal difference.

"We are the Big Red Machine just now," defenseman Nikolai Kulemin of the Toronto Maple Leafs said. "But without Alex Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk it would be very hard to score all those goals. And Evgeni Malkin, what can you say? He's the best player in the world, for sure."

Malkin led in goals with 11 and points with 19, and led the plus-minus ratings at plus-14, along with teammate Perezhogin.

Datsyuk was another top performer who glued together his colleagues to play cohesively. He talked positively about his prized teammate Malkin.

"He was unbelievable all the way, and deserves all the credit he got. I am happy to play with him again," Datsyuk said.

Topped with seasoned stars who seemed hungry and happy, Russia put on a tremendous final show of skating speed, passing technique and imagination. It was a performance oozing self-confidence.

"I had to remind the team that Slovakia is really good, and that they beat the Czechs and Canada. I'm grateful to my team as they played well, not only in this final but in the whole tournament," coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said.

Malkin, Datsyuk, Ovechkin and Semin did not disappoint anybody. But the play of Alexander Popov, 30, centering Malkin and dangerous winger Perezhogin was sensational, and on the third line Alexei Tereshenko's swiftness stood out.

In its own zone, Russia played a very tight five-man block, with players almost stuck to each other, but moving around as a unit. On offense the players spread to open up spaces, and then again came together to finish off the attack.

Russia did not rely on big names in goal, but Semyon Varlamov, of the Colorado Avalanche took individual honors with a 93.93 save percentage and 1.70 goals-against average. In the final he had 29 saves, while Slovakia's Jan Laco and Peter Hamerlik combined for 36.

The Russian team might be built with an eye on the Olympics in Sochi in 2014, and Datsyuk was asked about the NHL possibly deciding not to let its players compete.

"That is two years from now, and I cannot say anything about something so far away as I don't even know what happens tomorrow. It is hard to say something about Sochi now," Datsyuk said.

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Did the Capitals solve their depth scoring issues in Friday's loss?

Did the Capitals solve their depth scoring issues in Friday's loss?

Friday’s loss to the Florida Panthers was disappointing in a number of ways for the Capitals, but some good may yet come from it with the emergence of the third line.

A poor performance in the opening frame led to Todd Reirden switching up his lines to start the second. No change had a greater effect than the addition of Jakub Vrana to the third line in place of Andre Burakovsky to play with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly.

The move yielded instant results.

Connolly scored his first goal of the season less than two minutes into the period and added an assist. Vrana also recorded a goal and an assist, while Eller had a three-point night with three assists.

“It was just to make something happen,” Eller said, “Not that [Burakovsky] did something wrong, but just to make something happen and it worked. We kept riding the wave from there on and got two in that period. That seemed to work so that was positive.”

Vrana, Eller and Connolly were three players who had been playing well for the Caps, but were just not producing.

Heading into Friday’s game, Vrana and Eller both had only one point apiece on the season. Connolly had four, but three of those points came earlier in the season while he was skating on the team’s top line.

Friday was his first goal of the season.

“It’s good to get a goal,” Connolly said. “Getting some assists and all that and being a factor on some goals, but it’s nice to see one go in. I’ve had a lot of chances to start the year, thought I’ve been playing well. Lot more shots, lot more chances than I had last year and throughout the last two seasons per game. So I feel I’m ahead of the game right now in terms of that.”

Depth scoring has been a major weakness for the Caps so far in the early season. Washington had gotten only two bottom six goals prior to Friday’s game, and both came in the team’s blowout win over Boston in the opener.

They needed a spark to get offense from the bottom six, and they just may have found it on Friday with that third line combination.

Don’t be surprised to see that Vrana-Eller-Connolly trio stick together in Vancouver for the Caps’ next game against the Canucks.

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Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

The Capitals managed to earn a point on Friday in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the game felt like a missed opportunity for Washington. After giving up four goals in the first period, seven power plays including two 5-on-3s, and two power play goals, the Caps knew they had no one to blame but themselves for the loss.

“We were still not quite there maybe emotionally,” Lars Eller said.

At least not for the first period. The Caps allowed four goals in the opening 20 minutes to dig themselves into a 4-1 hole. Each goal came from the slot as the Caps had no control over the front of their own net.

“Just tough to start that way, to kind of dig ourselves a big hole,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s good to come back and get a point but we don’t need to do that to ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to get back in that game.”

Washington battled back to tie the game at 4, but penalties ultimately derailed their momentum, allowing Florida to retake the lead.

After scoring three straight goals, the Caps took three minor penalties in the final three minutes of the second period.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad as he made no attempt to play a loose puck that trickled past the Florida defenseman. He was clearly focused on delivering the hit and nothing else.

Less than a minute later, Eller was caught on the ice a tad early, and Washington was called for too many men.

“I see Backy coming for a change, they had full possession,” Eller said. “I don't see behind my back, I think the guys are telling me he has one skate over so I think it was an unnecessary call, but what am I going to say? It's a tough one.”

With 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with, Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal late in the period.

Even after a furious comeback, the Caps could not escape the second with the score tied because of the penalties.

Just 43 seconds after Huberdeau’s goal, Washington went right back to 5-on-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov was tossed from a faceoff by the linesman and argued the call, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“He said something he shouldn't have said to the referee,” Reirden said of the call.

The Caps' penalty problems were exacerbated by the continued problems of the penalty kill.

Heading into Friday's game, Washington was only killing off 72.2 percent of the power plays they faced. They allowed another two power play goals Friday as they continued to struggle when facing the extra man.

“We have room for improvement for sure,” Reirden said of his penalty kill. “It’s a new system, new with the way we’re killing, its new personnel. We’re learning. We’re missing a key guy in Tom on that as well. It’s not easy, either, when you’re 5-on-3 when they’ve got talented players that can convert in that spot. It’s definitely a work in progress and I didn't expect it to go smoothly to start with. That’s one of the areas that we knew was gonna be new to our team this year and it’s gonna continue to take some work. It’s something that definitely is a work in progress.”

Mistakes put the Caps down 4-1, they put them down 5-4, they cost them a valuable point against a previously winless Panthers team before a four-game road trip through Canada, and they are ultimately why the defending Stanley Cup champions are only 3-2-2 to start the season.

And they know it.

“We’re still trying to find our game,” Connolly said. “Would we have liked to have picked up where we left off? Yes. But it’s not easy. We played a lot of hockey last year and a short summer and you come in here and there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of that kind of stuff. We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things.

"I think if you look at last season we weren't very good either at the start. We weren't at our best. Just take the positives and know that we can overcome that. It hasn’t been disastrous. We’re still getting points, we’re still above .500 right now with a tough couple back-to-backs to start the year. So not the worst start, but obviously we have another level.”

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