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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Oh the Pain, the Pain . . .

Once again, Putin's Russia faces ignominious defeat on the athletic field. And at the hands of someone named "Irgl" yet. AND their own coach said they needed luck just to keep it competitive. I mean, how low can you sink?

RIGA (Reuters) - Zbynek Irgl's goal late in extra time gave the Czech Republic a dramatic 4-3 victory over Russia on Thursday, sending the titleholders into the world championship semi-finals. Irgl scored at 7:58 of the 10-minute extra period after evading two defensemen and beating Russia goalie Maxim Sokolov with a neat stickhandling move to knock previously unbeaten Russia out of the tournament.

"I got a really nice pass from (Czech captain) David Vyborny, then I tried to fool the goalie by going to my backhand and after he went down I just finished the move by putting the puck into the net," Irgl told reporters.

The Czechs looked on their way to victory in regulation time until Alexei Mikhnov leveled for Russia with 65 seconds left to force extra time.

Mikhnov slipped in a rebound from close range following Vitaly Atyushov's shot from the point.

"I must admit we were a bit lucky to score that goal," said Russia coach Vladimir Krikunov.

"But it didn't matter in the end. We paid the price for missing so many clear chances early in the game," added Krikunov before confirming that he was quitting his job.

"This was my last game as Russia coach. We had a very young team here and hopefully the players would learn from their mistakes. I still believe Russian hockey has a great future."

Czech coach Alois Hadamczik praised his players for "a great game."

"Russia are a very powerful, offensive-minded team but the players just gave a total team effort to win this game," he said.

The Czechs scored three powerplay goals through Tomas Kaberle, Jaroslav Hlinka and Patrik Stefan in regulation while the Russians were a miserable 0-for-7 with a man-advantage. They also failed to score while playing 5-on-3 for more than two minutes in the first period.

Washington Capitals rookie Alexander Ovechkin opened the scoring at 2:30 into the game, firing a one-timer into an open net for his sixth goal of the tournament after a perfect cross-ice pass from line mate Evgeni Malkin.

But the two youngsters also missed several great chances later in the game to give Russia the edge.

In Saturday's semi-finals the Czechs will meet the winner of the quarter-final between Finland and Belarus to be played later on Thursday.

Canada and Olympic champions Sweden booked their places in the last four on Wednesday

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