By Michael Kahn
PRAGUE (Reuters) - Canada booked a place in the world ice hockey championship final with a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday as Mike Smith earned a shutout for the favorites to knock out the hosts.
Canada, who will face Russia or the United Sates in the final on Sunday, only mustered two goals due in large part to Czech goaltender Ondrej Pavelec who faced 41 shots and made a number of big saves to keep his team in the game.
The Czechs, playing in front of a boisterous crowd, were energized at the start and tested Canadian goalie Smith a number of times.
"They came out with a lot of strong pressure early but we wanted to keep our composure and execute," Canadian defenseman Jake Muzzin said.
"We knew they have a lot of skill and a lot of big guys that like to stay low and we tried to limit that."
Canada opened the scoring midway through the first period when Jordan Eberle held off a defenseman before sweeping it to Taylor Hall who tapped into the net for his seventh goal of the tournament.Canada have been the highest-scoring team and have yet to lose in the tournament but the Czechs held the NHL-stocked side to under four goals for the first time.
"We haven't been challenged in a while and I was interested to see how we would respond," Hall said.
"It's been a while since Canada has been in the finals and we are aware of that. There are a lot of guys on this team looking for their first world championship."
Jason Spezza doubled the lead in the second period when he whipped in a wrist shot from just over the blue line.
The Czechs appeared to have cut the advantage minutes later when Petr Koukal's slapshot floated into the net but the officials ruled out the goal.
Canada were also able to limit 43-year-old Czech great Jaromir Jagr who has carried his team throughout the tournament in what could be his last tournament for the national team.
"Each member of the team came here because he wants a medal and even though it is not going to be the finals we will fight for it tomorrow," forward Koukal said.
Traditional rivals the United States and defending champions Russia face-off for the other final berth.
The United States won 4-2 during group play but the Russians will be boosted by the arrival of Alexander Ovechkin, whose NHL team were knocked out of the playoffs.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)