May 08, 2009

The United States lost to Russia 3-2 in the semifinals of the world hockey championships Friday, beaten on a power-play goal with less than two minutes left.

The defending champions will play in Sunday's final against Canada or Sweden, who meet in Friday's other semifinal.

Konstantin Gorovikov scored the winner on a deflection with 1:47 left in the third period.

The U.S. had taken the lead in the second on a goal by captain Dustin Brown, then tied it on Kyle Okposo's goal late in the period after Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Frolov -- on another ricochet -- scored for Russia.

"We were very unlucky on two of their goals. Shots which were going wide hit somebody," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said. "I'm very proud of our team for the effort we gave."

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov had 18 saves for Russia. Robert Esche made 21 stops for the Americans.

The U.S. will play for the bronze medal Sunday against the loser of the semifinal.

"We came here to get a medal -- the tournament isn't over for us," Wilson said.

The young U.S. team started the game at a higher intensity than it showed against the Russians last Saturday, when an early lead turned into a 4-1 deficit within 17 minutes.

Nick Foligno, the 21-year-old forward, typified the Americans' approach when diving full length to hook away the puck from Anton Kuryanov on a breakaway.

Esche made two pad saves before denying Oleg Saprykin in the crease and Alexei Morozov on an open shot from the right circle.

The U.S. game plan included unsettling star forward Kovalchuk, with Brown keeping close tabs on him throughout.

Kovalchuk skated 12 shifts in a scoreless first, and left the ice throwing a rueful smile back at the American bench.

The U.S. scored at 3:46 of the second when Brown was rewarded for his hard work on defense.

The Los Angeles Kings captain intercepted Vitali Atyushov's lazy pass through his own zone, drew Bryzgalov and scored to the right side of the net.

Russia tied it at 11:20 when Kovalchuk managed to control the puck off a quick faceoff to fire a shot from the edge of the right circle.

His goal celebration reflected the playoff-style atmosphere and Kovalchuk came at the Americans again to assist on the go-ahead goal, for his 14th point of the tournament.

The Atlanta Thrashers' captain skated out of his end along the left boards, crossed the ice and fired a shot from the right circle that hit Frolov and bounced past Esche at 14:25.

"Ilya was fired up. Hats off to Russia, they got it done," said defenseman Ron Hainsey, an Atlanta teammate of Kovalchuk. "It was a thrill to play in a real good game."

The U.S. then got its first power-play chance that featured Jack Johnson going end to end, but he could not get a shot through the crease.

Seconds later the Americans got an even-strength goal.

The 21-year-old Okposo connected on a one-timer off Hainsey's pass from the left circle.

The teams traded power-play chances early in the third and Okposo struck a post before the U.S. took just its third penalty with under four minutes left. The hooking call on T.J. Oshie proved to be decisive.

Alex Radulov fired a shot from the right circle that hit Gorovikov's back and bounced into the top left corner of Esche's net.

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