PRAGUE (AP) Belarus beat the United States for the first time 5-2 at the ice hockey world championship on Thursday.
The other favorites didn’t allow similar stumbles. Finland blanked Slovenia 4-0, Sweden topped Germany 4-3, and the host Czech Republic was a 5-1 winner against France.
Following five losses to the Americans, Belarus’ milestone win in Ostrava was its third in the group stage, and a major step to advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight year.
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Belarus tops Group B after four games with 10 points, one ahead of the U.S., Russia and Finland. Slovenia is pointless.
The top four teams in each of the two groups of eight will advance to the quarterfinals.
Sweden is second in Group A with 11 points, one behind Canada. Switzerland is third with eight, and the Czechs are one point back. Germany has three.
After a scoreless first period between Belarus and the U.S., Artur Gavrus and Artyom Volkov scored 70 seconds apart in the second period, and Alexander Kitarov added a third for a commanding 3-0 lead.
It was too much for the Americans to overcome, especially with goaltender Kevin Lalande having a good game making 28 saves, including a big stop in the second to deny Jimmy Vesey on a breakaway.
Brock Nelson finally scored for the U.S. before the end of the second, but a pair in the third by captain Alexei Kalyuzhny, around his two-minute penalty for hooking, sealed Belarus’ historic day.
”We had the momentum early and they pushed back through work and discipline,” U.S. coach Todd Richards said. ”They turned the tide and put us on our heels.”
Belarus coach Dave Lewis agreed: ”We did not settle into the game until the second period.”
Finland got an early break against Slovenia with Leo Komarov and Petri Kontiola scoring in a span of 41 seconds in the first period. Aleksander Barkov and Joonas Kemppainen scored in the second for their third victory. Goalie Pekka Rinne stopped 13 shots for his third straight shutout at the worlds.
Oscar Moller netted two to lift Sweden to a hard-fought victory over Germany.
Defenseman John Klinberg scored in the third to restore the Swedish lead at 3-2, and Moller added his second goal before Matthias Plachta reduced the final margin to 4-3 with 5:21 to go.
Earlier, Germany tied the game on goals by Marcus Kink and Nicolas Krammer, after Moller and Joakim Lindstrom gave the Swedes a 2-0 lead.
”We should be able to be smarter than we were today,” Sweden captain Staffan Kronwall said. ”But we got three points and that’s all that matters.”
Czech defenseman Ondrej Nemec broke the scoreless deadlock in his game 1:10 into the second period, and added another goal and an assist against France.
”The goals are an extra bonus for me,” Nemec said. ”Our offense was good but there were some mistakes in the defense again, and a better opponent could punish us.”
Vladimir Sobotka, Jaromir Jagr, and Roman Cervenka had the other Czech goals.
Kevin Hecquefeuille scored the lone one for France.