BRATISLAVA, May 23 (Reuters) - Ice hockey heavyweights Russia and Canada reached the world championship semi-finals on Thursday after thrilling wins, with holders Sweden in action later on Thursday.
The Russians edged old rivals the United States 4-3 while Canada ground out a 3-2 sudden-death overtime victory over last year's runners-up Switzerland after grabbing an equalizer four-tenths of a second before the end of regular time.
Vegas Golden Knights forward Nikita Gusev scored one goal and delivered two assists for the Russians, having fired them into an early lead before he set up Mikhail Sergachyov to make it 2-0 late in the first period.
The Americans pulled one back through Brady Skjei in the second period after the defender's fierce long-range shot took a heavy deflection at the near post.
Gusev fed Kiril Kaprizov for Russia's third and Mikhail Grigorenko rounded off another lightning break to make it 4-2 after Noah Hafinin had reduced the arrears with a backhander into the top corner of the net.
The Russians were forced to hang on in the closing stages after Alex Debrincat rifled in a first-time shot from Patrick Kane's assist and the U.S. piled on pressure in the last two minutes of the action-packed contest.
The Swiss, who beat Canada 3-2 in last year's semi-finals, were disconsolate after losing by the same score this time as the Canadians snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Power-play goals by Sven Andrighetto and Nico Hischier wiped out Mark Stone's equalizer for Canada, who looked down and out before Damon Severson's shot ricocheted off several bodies and trickled over the line to force overtime.
Stone emerged as Canada's hero when he steered in a Pierre-Luc Dubois pass to spark wild celebrations among his team mates.
The Swedes take on traditional rivals Finland and underdogs Germany lock horns with the Czech Republic in the other two quarter-finals.
The semi-finals are on Saturday and the final on Sunday in Bratislava's Ondrej Nepela Arena.
(Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ed Osmond)