Russia tops Finland to take Bronze at World Championships

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Russia topped Finland on Sunday, 5-3, to win the Bronze Medal at the 2017 IIHF World Championships.

Russia finishes the tournament having won eight of its 10 games, with its only losses coming to the United States in group play and Canada in the semifinals.

On Sunday Russia stormed out in front by scoring the game’s first four goals.

But Finland responded with three of its own to make it a one-goal game in the third period before a Nikita Kucherov tally put the game away for Russia with just a little more than 12 minutes to play.

Valeri Nichushkin recorded three assists for Russia in the win, while Nikita Gusev scored a pair of goals and added an assist.

WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Russia, World Hockey Championship semifinal

The World Hockey Championship features two classic rivalry matchups for its semifinal round on Saturday.

Later on, Sweden takes on Finland, because of course. The juiciest battle may just be coming up, however, as many in the hockey world still – justifiably – get excited for Canada vs. Russia.

To little surprise, both countries boast a heavy presence on the tournament’s points leaders listArtemi Panarin and Nikita Kucherov have carried over strong 2016-17 success to the tourney, while Nathan MacKinnon and Mitch Marner are leading the way for a typically loaded Canadian group.

The action is slated to begin at 9:15 a.m. ET. CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE.

Bolts ‘very interested’ in extending Budaj

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Tampa Bay needs a backup for Andrei Vasilevskiy next season, and it might already have one in house.

Peter Budaj, acquired at the deadline in the Ben Bishop-to-Los Angeles trade, played well enough down the stretch to pique the interest of Bolts GM Steve Yzerman.

“We were very please with the finish to the season Peter had,” Yzerman said on Thursday, in an interview with WDAE 620 radio. “We’d very much be interested in bringing him back.”

Budaj, 34, was one of the biggest surprises in the league last year. He was originally signed to be the Kings’ No. 3 netminder, but ascended to the starting job after an injury to Jonathan Quick and ineffective play from Jeff Zatkoff.

It was a noteworthy development for a guy that played exactly one game during the ’15-16 campaign, and was out of the NHL entirely the year prior. Budaj responded by going 30-21-3 this season, with a .915 save percentage and 2.18 GAA — most of it with the Kings.

After joining the Bolts, he started four times and won three games as the club made a frenetic late push for a playoff spot.

This summer’s goalie market is expected to be crazy — it’s been active already, and it’s only the third week in May — so the Bolts might be smart to lock Budaj in now, rather than see how free agency unfolds. He’s coming off a one-year, $600,000 deal, so he could probably be retained on the cheap. And if he struggles, there’s always Kristers Gudlevskis in the system.

Gudlevskis, 24, has appeared in three career games with the Bolts, spending extensive time in the American League. He’s currently a restricted free agent.

Hayes scores twice as U.S. hands Russia first loss at Worlds

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Team USA notched its biggest win of the World Hockey Championship on Tuesday, knocking off previously undefeated Russia 5-3.

Kevin Hayes scored twice, while Anders Lee continued his terrific tourney by netting the game-winner on the power play in the third period. Isles teammate Brock Nelson — who’s also playing very well for the U.S. — had a three-point effort, while Johnny Gaudreau and Dylan Larkin registered two points each.

The Russians were led by Nikita Gusev, who scored twice.

As mentioned above, this was the first setback of the tourney for Russia. The team had previously run roughshod through the preliminary round, largely on the strength of its “big three” — forwards Nikita Kucherov, Artemi Panarin and Vadim Shipachyov. The trio had combined for 36 points but went silent on Tuesday. Shipachyov was the only one to find the scoresheet, registering an assist.

The U.S. has to be thrilled with today’s result. It’s a stark turnaround from its opening loss to the Germans, and has put the squad among the favorites for gold. The Americans have reeled off six straight wins and have looked dangerous offensively, scoring 16 goals over their last three games.

The U.S. also locked up top spot in Group A with Tuesday’s victory.

Report: Coyotes sign KHL forward Kempe (Updated)

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Arizona has landed an intriguing player out of Russia: Swedish forward Mario Kempe, the older brother of L.A. prospect Adrian Kempe.

Mario, 28, has — per Swedish news outlet Aftonbladet — agreed to join the Coyotes after a three-year stint with KHL club Vityaz Podolsk. He had 14 goals and 34 points in 56 games this year.

Update: Arizona has confirmed the signing. It’s a one-year, two-way deal. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Kempe does have some experience in North America. He was Philly’s fifth-round pick at the 2007 draft and, following a couple of good seasons in the Quebec junior league, played a handful of games for the AHL Phantoms.

Kempe returned to his native Sweden after his minor-league stint, then played a few seasons in the SHL before jumping to Russia.

Some may remember Kempe from his role on the Swedish team at the 2008 World Juniors. He was part of the silver medal-winning team that featured a number of future NHLers, including the likes of Victor Hedman, Carl Hagelin, Patrik Berglund, Mikael Backlund and Magnus Paajarvi.