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Russia beats Sweden 3-1, Finland blanks Czechs 3-0 to reach world hockey final

Finland's Olli Jokinen, left, and Czech Republic's Jaromir Jagr battle for the puck during a semifinal match between Finland and Czech Republic at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, May 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

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Finland's Olli Jokinen, left, and Czech Republic's Jaromir Jagr battle for the puck during a semifinal match between Finland and Czech Republic at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, May 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

MINSK, Belarus - Finland blanked the Czech Republic 3-0 in the semifinals of the ice hockey world championship on Saturday to set up a final against Russia.

Earlier Saturday, Russia beat defending champion Sweden 3-1 in a matchup of the last two title holders to advance to the title game.

Finland's Jori Lehtera netted a backhand in the first period before Jarkko Immonen scored on a power play in the second and Lehtera added his second into the empty net in the third.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped 20 shots for the shutout.

Finland struggled in the group stage, losing three games, and needed a help from Switzerland to advance before eliminated Canada in the quarter-finals.

"We had a tough time in the group stage and almost every game was a must win for. Now, we've been able to enjoy the game, nothing to lose" Rinne said. "As a team we've come together and it's been great fun. I'm really excited about this opportunity."

Russia meanwhile, has won all nine of its games at the tournament, and is now one win away from its second title in three years and has a chance to avenge a disappointing loss to Finland in the quarter-finals in the Sochi Olympics.

Finland last won the worlds in 2011.

"Our team has a character," Russia coach Oleg Znarok said.

Showing off its attacking power, Russia rebounded from an opening goal by Oscar Moller just 19 seconds into the game as Sergei Plotnikov and Sergei Shirokov both scored later in the first period.

Defenceman Anton Belov drove a slap shot into the net on a rebound to make it 3-1 in the second in front of roaring Russian fans.

Russia outshot Sweden 34-23, while goaltender Sergei Bobrovski made big saves to deny Moller and Joakim Lindstrom in the middle period.

Danis Zaripov and defenceman Evgeni Medvedev had two assists each and star forward Alex Ovechkin got one assist in his second straight game after recovering from a right leg injury.

"I had a new knee brace and felt much better," Ovechkin said. "I can't say I am 100 per cent fit but the situation is that one must be ready for anything. We have one game left and we must do everything to make sure we win."

Plotnikov scored from the right circle on a rebound after 13:25 and Shirokov wristed a shot past goaltender Anders Nilsson to put Russia 2-1 ahead with two minutes left in the period.

"I don't think we came up to our best level," Nilsson said. "I think they were better than us today, they had more chances and we didn't create enough chances to win."

Sweden pulled Nilsson with more than two minutes to play in the third and their advantage increased to six-on-four when Denis Denisov was penalized for interference with 1:40 remaining. But all Swedish hopes ended when Mikael Backlund was ejected for a hit on Plotnikov.

That incident prompted angry exchanges between Znarok and a Swedish team official.

Sweden and the Czechs now have to recover for Sunday's bronze medal game.

"It's not the medal we wanted to play for the last game but we don't want to go home empty handed," Sweden forward Gustav Nyquist said.

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