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Russia tops Switzerland, advances at worlds

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Defending champion Russia got the win it wanted and the tough match it needed with a 4-2 victory over Switzerland on Tuesday at the ice hockey world championship.

The Russians, who cruised through first-round wins against Germany and France, trailed 2-1 after the first period but fought back against a host nation that keeps forcing close matches. Both teams had already qualified for second phase play, which begins Thursday.

"It doesn't work for you in the big picture if you have 5-0, 7-2 games," said defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky, a veteran of five NHL teams between 1994-2007. "We scored a quick goal and thought it was going to be another easy game. Then you've got yourself a serious game and you have to get back to the little things that help you win."

Also Tuesday, Belarus advanced to the second round by beating Hungary 3-1 in Zurich.

In the late match in Zurich, Canada completed a perfect first round by beating Slovakia 7-3. Jason Spezza scored twice, and Shea Weber had a goal and three assists for Canada, which outscored its opponents 22-4 in its first three matches. Martin St. Louis added four assists.

In Bern, France beat Germany 2-1 to progress to the second round. France, which had lost to Group B rivals Russia and Switzerland, joined them in the 12-team qualification round which begins play on Thursday. All the goals came in the first period, with France taking the lead at 3:50 with an unassisted goal by Anthoine Lussier.

The United States faces Sweden in its final first-round match Wednesday needing just a point from an overtime loss to win Group C. The second-place team will play Russia on Thursday, while the group winner is scheduled to play Russia on Saturday.

Russia led at 2:19, when Yitali Atyushov was left open in the right circle to beat Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Martin Gerber. Ilya Kovalchuk and Denis Grebeshkov got the assists.

Russia's perfect record on penalty killing ended with two Swiss goals. The first came after Alexander Frolov used a high stick on Switzerland captain Mark Streit, the Islanders defenseman.

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Canada-born Ryan Gardner picked up a rebound from Ilya Bryzgalov's save and flipped the puck over the sprawling goalie.

Streit set up Martin Pluss for a 2-1 lead, though the goal celebration was cut short when Pluss was flattened by a jab to the face from Vitali Proshkin.

Russia was outshot 13-4 in the first but tied it in the second, when Sergei Zinoviev skated quickly down the right and passed it to Kovalchuk to score.

Russia regained the lead on another breakaway goal midway through the third. Alexei Morozov intercepted the puck on his own blue line, raced up the rink and exchanged passes with Kovalchuk before slotting his shot behind Gerber. Alexander Perezhogin added an empty-netter.

Bryzgalov made 37 saves for the win while Gerber made 20 stops.

Once again, Russia dressed just 19 players as it waits for NHL reinforcements to arrive from teams eliminated in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Among them is Alex Ovechkin from the Washington Capitals, who had a Game 7 against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Switzerland had 22 players and has added Yannick Weber, though the 20-year-old Montreal Canadiens defenseman did not dress for action.

Belarus had a tense final period against Hungary before getting the win.

Alexei Kaliuzhny scored for Belarus in the first, but Imre Peterdi tied the game in the second. Alexei Ugarov and Mikhail Grabovski each scored in the third.