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Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

World Cup of Hockey: Tkachuk leads U.S. past Russia

By The Associated Press

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The United States again went with a younger lineup, but it was the veteran line of Keith Tkachuk, Mike Modano and Bill Guerin that played ageless hockey.

Tkachuk had four goals — all assisted by Modano — and added an assist as the Americans' top line accounted for 11 points and led the United States into the World Cup of Hockey semifinals with a 5-3 victory over Russia last night.

Tkachuk, a St. Louis Blues forward who is normally the target of boos at the NHL Minnesota Wild's Xcel Energy Center, was the difference for the Americans. The United States avenged last week's 3-1 loss to the Russians by eliminating them from the eight-team tournament.

"We went through a lull last week," Tkachuk said. "We were tired, and when you're tired you cut corners. But these are elimination games and we're hitting our stride now."

The United States will play either Finland or the Czech Republic on Friday night in St. Paul. Canada hosts Slovakia in Toronto today, with the final semifinal berth on the line.

After being outworked against Canada and Russia last week, the Americans beat struggling Slovakia 3-1 but still looked like an underdog against the Russians. But the roles reversed in the rematch, with Russia making costly turnovers that the suddenly opportunistic Americans turned into goals.

"The biggest mistake we made is, we're not playing practical hockey like the U.S. and Canada play," Russia's Oleg Tverdovsky said. "That's why they're beating the European teams."

After Russia made it 2-all with a quick goal in the third period, Tkachuk had a chance to score again after Russia's Dmitri Kalinin turned the puck over in the neutral zone. His shot deflected off a defender's stick, but Scott Gomez of the New Jersey Devils was there to punch a shot past goalie Ilya Bryzgalov at 4:25.

Twenty-two seconds later, Guerin made a nice pass from the left circle to a cutting Tkachuk, who scored his fourth goal of the tournament to give the United States a 4-2 lead.

"That's where experience comes into play," Tkachuk said.
 
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Russia pulled to 4-3 with 8:56 to play when Ilya Kovalchuk's slap shot from the left circle beat Robert Esche during a four-minute power play. Russia couldn't convert on the second half of the advantage, created when Brian Leetch cut Dainius Zubrus in the face with a high stick.

The Americans played tight defense the rest of the way, and Tkachuk added an empty-net goal with 54.7 seconds to play to seal the victory.

Canada's Mario Lemieux also scored four goals in a game during the 1987 Canada Cup, the tournament that predated the World Cup.

"I've had four goals at some point in my NHL career, but tonight was special," the 32-year-old Tkachuk said.

Again opting for a younger lineup, U.S. coach Ron Wilson scratched Brett Hull, Craig Conroy, Brian Rolston and Eric Weinrich. The quicker team helped defeat winless Slovakia last week for the United States' lone win in round-robin play, and Wilson didn't want a repeat of his team's lackluster play in its loss to Russia.

Last week, the Russians started off fast against the sluggish Americans. Yesterday, the United States was more aggressive at both ends of the ice.

"The guys have been playing for quite awhile," Gomez said. "No one got down. A lot of these guys have been to the Stanley Cup Finals, so we knew how we had to play."

The Americans led 1-0 with Tkachuk's first goal at 11:20.

Both teams had 21 shots.

"I thought it was a pretty even game," Russia forward Alexei Kovalev said.

"I thought we had a chance to win this game, and they used our turnovers and they scored on us."

Other game

Czech Republic 6, at Sweden 1 — Milan Hejduk scored two goals as the Czech Republic routed Sweden in Stockholm.

All remaining World Cup of Hockey games will be played in North America, in either St. Paul or Toronto.

Martin Straka, Martin Havlat, Marek Zidlicky and Radek Dvorak also scored for the Czechs, who scored the first five goals of the game.

Sweden's Markus Naslund, who plays for the NHL Vancouver Canucks, failed to get a goal in four tournament games.

Note

• A woman charged with helping former NHL player Mike Danton try to arrange a murder for hire was an unknowing "pawn" in Danton's plans to have his agent killed, her lawyer told jurors in federal court in East St. Louis, Ill.

Katie Wolfmeyer, 19, who had a brief relationship with the former St. Louis Blues forward, is charged with conspiring to arrange a murder for hire and using a telephone across state lines to arrange it. "Our evidence will be that Katie was just a pawn," said her attorney, Art Margulis, in an opening statement.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Clark said in his opening statement that Wolfmeyer was a willing participant in the failed plot to kill Danton's agent, David Frost. Danton pleaded guilty in July to trying to hire a hit man for $10,000 to kill Frost. Danton faces sentencing Oct. 22.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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