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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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Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

There was no tougher critic on Matt Niskanen’s Game 5 performance on Saturday than Niskanen himself.

Niskanen and his defensive partner, Dmitry Orlov, were on the ice for all three of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s three goals in the Capitals’ 3-2 loss. That was striking given the Orlov-Niskanen duo is typically Washington’s best defensive pair.

That was not the case on Saturday and Niskanen took full responsibility afterward.

“First three goals are all my fault,” Niskanen said. “I had a tough first 20:30 so I've got to be better next game.”

Pretty much no one played the first goal right.

The goal came just 19 seconds into the game. Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov looked like he could have gotten the puck, but instead played the body of Cedric Paquette. Niskanen stepped up at the blue line, but the Lightning got the puck past him creating a short rush that beat Braden Holtby who was way too far back in the crease.

Yes, Niskanen got caught a bit high, but he was just as at fault as Orlov, Kuznetsov and Holtby.

The second goal happened because Steven Stamkos tripped Orlov to create a turnover and it wasn’t called.

Niskanen got in between Ondrej Palat and the puck, but Palat beat both him and Holtby on the shot. Not sure I would put this one on Niskanen.

The third goal…well, that one was a bad play by Niskanen.

When you go one-on-one with a player, a defenseman cannot allow that player to turn the corner. That’s especially true when that player is defenseman Anton Stralman who is not exactly gifted with blazing speed. This was just a complete misplay.

Regardless of how many goals were strictly on Niskanen, that’s not the point. This was a message not so much to the media but to the team. That message was this: This one’s on me, I will be better next game.

Leaders always take responsibility. Niskanen is taking the blame here and saying he will be better in the hopes the team around him will be better as well.

They will need to be to win Game 6.

“A lot of people counted us out when we were down 0-2 in the first round,” Niskanen said. “Things got hard in the last series where we could have melted and we just kept playing. So that's what we've got to do again, bring our best effort for Game 6 at home, win a game and then we'll go from there.

“But we're focused on bringing our best game of the season for Game 6 and we'll be ready to go.”

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3 reasons the Caps lost Game 5 to the Lightning

3 reasons the Caps lost Game 5 to the Lightning

When the Capitals take to the ice at home on Monday, they will be playing for their playoff lives. They lost their third straight game on Saturday as the Tampa Bay Lightning took Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead and push the Caps to the brink.

Here is why the Caps fell on the road for the first time in this series.

A rough start

Nineteen seconds was all the time Tampa Bay would need to score in Game 5.

Dmitry Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov chased after it, but instead of getting the puck he inexplicably played the body of Cedric Paquette. Paquette was able to chip it into the offensive zone to Ryan Callahan. Callahan tried to pass to the slot, but it hit off of Orlov right to Paquette who buried it past Braden Holtby who was very deep in the crease.

If Orlov doesn’t cough the puck up in the neutral zone, if Kuznetsov plays the puck instead of the body or if Holtby challenges that shot, that goal doesn’t happen. An ugly play all around for Washington.

A no-call on Steven Stamkos

Later in the first period, Orlov went to corral a puck in the neutral zone, but was pressured by Stamkos, fell to the ice and turned the puck over to Nikita Kucherov. It was very clearly a trip on Stamkos, but there was no call. Palat would score on the play to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.

You can read more about the play here.

A rough night for Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen

Orlov and Niskanen is normally the Caps' best defensive pair, but they had a very long night. They were on the ice for each of the Lightning’s three goals of the game.

Orlov’s turnover led to the first goal, Stamkos’ trip of Orlov led to the second. On the third, Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman was somehow able to drive and turn the corner on Niskanen leading to a scoring opportunity that eventually deflected off the glove of Ryan Callahan and into the net. Stralman is not the speediest of players. The fact he was able to go one-on-one with Niskanen and get in behind him was surprising to see.

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