Prague – Canada booked a place in the world ice hockey championship final with a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday as Mike Smith earned a shutout for the favourites to knock out the hosts.
Canada, who will face Russia in the final on Sunday, only mustered two goals due in large part to Czech goaltender Ondrej Pavelec who faced 41 shots and made a number of big saves to keep his team in the game.
The Czechs, playing in front of a boisterous crowd, were energized at the start and tested Canadian goalie Smith a number of times.
“They came out with a lot of strong pressure early but we wanted to keep our composure and execute,” Canadian defenceman Jake Muzzin said.
“We knew they have a lot of skill and a lot of big guys that like to stay low and we tried to limit that.”
Canada opened the scoring midway through the first period when Jordan Eberle held off a defenceman before sweeping it to Taylor Hall who tapped into the net for his seventh goal of the tournament.
Canada have been the highest-scoring team and have yet to lose in the tournament but the Czechs held the NHL-stocked side to under four goals for the first time.
“We haven’t been challenged in a while and I was interested to see how we would respond,” Hall said.
“It’s been a while since Canada has been in the finals and we are aware of that. There are a lot of guys on this team looking for their first world championship.”
Jason Spezza doubled the lead in the second period when he whipped in a wrist shot from just over the blue line.
In Saturday’s later semifinal, Russia beat the United States 4-0 to advance to the gold-medal game. The U.S. will play the Czech Republic, also on Sunday, for bronze.
The Russia-U.S. semi was scoreless until more than seven minutes into the final frame, when Sergei Mozyakin wristed a shot over goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
Alex Ovechkin, making his first appearance in the tournament following the end of his NHL playoffs run, found space in between the goalie’s pads three minutes later.
Vadim Schipachyov made it 3-0, and Evgeni Malkin finished it off with 1:25 to go into an empty net. Russia will seek its third title in four years.
“The Russians, of course, are Russians. They’ve been tremendously skilled and talented,” said Canada coach Todd McLellan.
“They can score. They’ve got a team of players that have played together in the past and they’re dangerous the whole 60 minutes.”