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Slovakia takes hockey world title

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2002

GOTEBORG, Sweden -- Washington Capitals forward Peter Bondra scored his second goal of the game with 1:40 remaining to give Slovakia a 4-3 victory over Russia Saturday and hand the young nation its first Ice Hockey World Championship gold medal.

Bondra picked up a long crossing pass from L.A. Kings forward Zigmund Palffy and flicked in a wrister from the left circle.

''This is like a dream, sometimes you go to bed as a kid and think about it,'' Bondra said. ''And with (two) minutes left and you get the gamer, it's a dream come true.

''I'm so happy. This is the effort of all. We played for 60 minutes and never gave up.''

The Russians fought back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game at 3 at 14:15 of the third period on Maxim Sushinski's second goal of the game.

The historic title was doubly sweet for the Slovaks, as they dethroned big brother Czech Republic, three-time defending champions.

The loss was disappointing for the Russians, who had reached their first final in nine years and were looking for their first title since 1993. The last silver medal Russia or the former Soviet Union claimed was in 1987 in Vienna.

Slovakia was in its second final in three years. Slovakia had the psychological edge entering the final, having already defeated Russia 6-4 in the qualifying round.

L.A. Kings defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky scored just 22 seconds into the game, beating Russian goalie Maxim Sokolov with a sizzling shot from the left point. The puck bounced out of the net so fast, a video replay was necessary before allowing the goal.

Bondra's one-timer of a pass from behind the net by Buffalo Sabres forward Miroslav Satan made it 2-0 during a power play at 12:10.

''Peter was unbelievable,'' said former-NHL great Peter Stastny, Slovakia's general manager. ''The whole team was fantastic. I really appreciate the discipline, patience, hard work, and as I always believed, the chemistry was there.

''That turned into a great result and sent the whole country into a kind of volcano of euphoria.''

Russia finally got on the board when Sushinski slammed a loose puck under Nashville Predators goalie Jan Lasak's outstretched right leg from the right face-off circle.

Satan gave Slovakia a 3-1 lead at 6:59 when his shot from just outside the crease rebounded off the post and into the net. Sokolov fell to the ice on the play, trying madly to swipe the puck out from behind him.

Russia pulled back within 3-2 when Alexander Prokopiev took a pass from the corner from Sushinski and, from the slot, put it through Lasak's five-hole.

With the Russians applying heavy pressure for five straight minutes, Sushinski scored his second of the game to tie the game, slipping the puck between Lasak's pads during a goal-mouth scramble.

The Slovaks downed hosts Sweden 2-1 and eliminated Olympic champions Canada with a stunning 3-2 come-from-behind victory in the round of eight. In the semifinals, it defeated Sweden again, this time 3-2 in a nail-biting shootout.

For many Slovaks, the title is sign it should now be considered part of world hockey elite.

''Three years ago we had silver and now the gold medal,'' Stastny said. ''And there are still a bunch of western hockey players that could be here. But it's not about the hockey players but what kind of a team you're able to create.''

The Russians, meanwhile, had been looking to prove their still merit the badge of a world hockey power.

After 22 world titles as the Soviet Union, Russian hockey has been locked in a downward spiral.

Failing to reach the podium altogether the past six years, the nation had virtually become underdogs in Sweden, winning just two games in preliminary and qualifying round play. Its quarterfinal win over the Czech Republic was considered an upset.

Its one and only crown as Russia dates back to 1993 in Munich.



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