Finns shut out United States 4-0


RIGA, Latvia (AP) – Finland blanked the United States 4-0 on Friday night to stay unbeaten at the hockey world championships, while Olympic champion Sweden also closed in on a quarterfinal spot by beating Belarus 4-1.

With the win, Finland moved to second place in the Group E standings with five points, one behind idle Canada.

The Czech Republic, which beat Norway 3-1 earlier, is third with four points.

The United States is fourth with two points. The top four teams in each group move into the quarterfinals next week.

Finnish goalie Antero Niittymaki stopped 23 shots in earning his second shutout of the tournament.

“We had a difficult time in the beginning, but then we started to skate better and work better,” Finnish coach Erkka Westerlund said. “And, of course, Antero Niittymaki was very good when we had difficult times.”

Yan Stastny missed a penalty shot for the United States 2:21 into the game after Mikko Luoma hooked the American forward, who broke away alone in front of the Finnish net.

Finland, which has 10 players returning from the squad that lost the Olympic final to Sweden, took the lead midway through the first period when Mikko Koivu knocked a rebound past American goalie Craig Anderson.

Anderson, who had the best goals-against-average and top save percentage in the tournament going into the game, gave up another goal early in the second period when Sean Bergenheim beat him with a shot between the pads.

Petteri Nummelin added a power-play goal halfway through the session, beating Anderson with a wrister to the stick side.

Lasse Kukkonen finished the scoring with less than 6 minutes left in the game.

Michael Nylander, Jonas Nordquist, Magnus Johansson and Per Hallberg scored for Sweden, which also remained unbeaten.

Russia, which was idle, tops Group F with six points. Sweden has five, Switzerland four and Belarus two.

Associated Press Writer Timothy Jacobs contributed to this report.

AP-ES-05-12-06 1746EDT