COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Russia overcame Germany 2-1 to set up a showdown with the Czech Republic in the ice hockey world championship final on Saturday.
Russia collected its 27th straight win at the worlds since 2007 but needed all it could muster to knock off the motivated German hosts, who were making their first appearance in the semifinals since the current format was added in 1992.
Pavel Datsyuk scored the winner on a breakaway with 1:50 left in the game.
"Every game, you go deeper and deeper, and it's tougher and tougher. Especially when you play the home team, they have lots of fans and that helped them," Datsyuk said.
Russia, the most successful team in worlds history with 25 crowns, has a chance to become the first team to win three straight titles since the Czech Republic from 1999 to 2001.
The Czechs beat Sweden 3-2 in a shootout to return to the final for the first time since 2006. They haven't won the title since 2005.
"Two weeks ago, nobody gave us a chance," Czech superstar Jaromir Jagr said. "I'm so happy for these guys. Now we're going to the final."
The Czechs have won five world titles and six more as part of Czechoslovakia.
Evgeni Malkin nearly gave Russia the lead just two minutes into the semi against Germany but he hit the post.
But the Russians found themselves short-handed in a 5-on-3 for 49 seconds midway through the first period when Nikolai Kulemin was given a five-minute boarding penalty and 20 minutes for game misconduct on his hit on Korbinian Holzer, who was unable to return to the game.
With 1:55 left in Kulemin's penalty, Alexei Emelin was sent off for hooking for another 5-on-3 situation for Germany.
The hosts finally took advantage with 58 seconds remaining as Marcel Goc hit home the rebound of Felix Schutz's shot.
With Germany playing short-handed three minutes into the second period, Schutz got out on a breakaway but could not beat Russia goalie Vasili Koshechkin.
Russia struggled to take control in the second period but finally equalized with 11 minutes when Malkin's slapshot of Sergei Gonchar's pass beat Germany goalie Robert Zepp.
Both teams had good chances in the third period but Datsyuk stole a pass in the German zone and streaked down the ice before beating Zepp to the upper left corner from the left side.
"We were close but close is not enough," Germany defender Christian Ehrhoff said. "We can finish the tournament with a medal and no one would have expected that beforehand."
In the first semifinal, Karel Rachunek scored with 7.5 seconds left in relegation to force overtime, then Jan Marek hit home in the shootout to give the Czechs the win.
"We struggled in the first round and almost didn't make it. We were in a must-win situation against Canada, and if we lost, we would have gone home," Czech goalie Tomas Vokoun said.
"We've been playing elimination round-style hockey ever since we lost to Norway. That put us in a very bad spot. We've beaten some very good teams, and now we've beaten Sweden twice."
Johan Harju's power-play goal opened the scoring for Sweden eight minutes in. But Tomas Mojzis leveled in the 18th.
Sweden regained the lead with eight minutes remaining in the second period on Andreas Engqvist's goal, setting up Rachunek's score just before the final buzzer.
After a scoreless extra session, the Vokoun stopped Magnus Johansson and Tony Martensson in the shootout.
Sweden, the 2006 champion, will be playing for its second straight bronze medal.