2012 IIHF World Hockey Championships – Canada vs. USA

No matter the tournament or venue, Canada and U.S. hockey games always feature friends and teammates facing off against each other.  This is the 42nd meeting between the two nations with Canada having won 38 of them.  The last time the U.S. beat Canada was 2001 in overtime in the quarter finals.  Needless to say, the U.S. was a team desperately looking for a victory over their number one rival.

The sixteen teams in the Championships are divided into two divisions.  Each team will play 7 games in the round robin portion of the tournament.  Canada and the U.S. play their round robin games in Helsinki, Finland.  Canada would be playing two very solid teams right out of the gate.  Canada won their first game 3-2 versus Slovakia and the U.S won their first game easily 7-2 versus France.

The first line of the U.S. team features Paul Statsny in between Max Pacioretty and Bobby Ryan.  Canada countered with a first line of Ryan Getzlaf between his NHL teammate Corey Perry and Evander Kane.  Getzlaf is Team Canada’s captain where defenceman Jack Johnson is the U.S.’s.  Johnson has truly become, if you’ll pardon the pun, Captain America.  This is Johnson’s 5th World Championships and his 4th in a row.  He continues to answer the call for his country and on this day was the leader they needed.

Canucks winger Alexandre Burrows missed the game with a concussion after banging his head on the ice in Canada’s first game.  Coach Brent Sutter decided to go with 7 defencemen.  Mark Methot of the Columbus Blue Jackets was playing his first game.  He had missed the end of the NHL season with a broken jaw.  18-year-old junior player Bryan Murray only played a few shifts during the game.  This was tough on the young player as he looked nervous and coughed up the puck on several occasions.

Getting the jump on their opponents early, the United States was the team first to all loose pucks.  Defensively Canada had trouble with U.S.’s speed and cycling of the puck.  The mobile U.S. defencemen caused odd numbered rushes and showed early that they were not afraid to jump in.

The worst start possible for Canada happened when the U.S. struck first and struck early.  It was the first U.S. shot on Cam Ward that went in.  It was a wrist shot from the middle of defensive zone by second line centre man Jim Slater only 1:10 into the game.  It was one that Ward should have stopped.  The good news for Canada was that Ward got stronger as the first game wont on.  I bet they were hoping it would be the same in the second.  And he rewarded their faith by doing just that.

Despite being outplayed  Canada came out of the 1st period with a 1-1 tie due to some strong play by the Islanders John Tavares. The goal was a result of some great vision by defenceman Duncan Keith, who found Tavares alone to the left of the U.S. crease.  Tavares showed patience by cutting across the entire width of the crease and then banked it off Jimmy Howard’s mask into the net.  Tavares was making things happen offensively, but his line with Patrick Sharp and Jeff Skinner have been on the ice for 3 goals against in the first two games so far.

After killing off a couple of penalties to Tavares (interference) and Dion Phaneuf (slashing) Canada seemed to gain some confidence and began controlling the play.  At 7:34 they went ahead when once again Tavares contributed offensively.  Picking up a stretch pass from Jay Bouwmeester near the U.S. blueline, Tavares and Skinner crisscrossed and Tavares dropped the puck to Skinner who quickly wired a wrist shot past Howard on the blocker side.

The game was predicted to be a tight one and it continued to be with the U.S. tying the game up once again just over 6 minutes later.  While on the power play Johnson one timed a pass from Pacioretty past Ward.

After scoring one special teams goal, the U.S. struck for another one, but this time while shorthanded.  With Justin Faulk in the box on a slashing minor, Patrick Dwyer stuffed the puck behind Ward after coming out from behind the net with it.  The back-and-forth nature of the game continued with Kane making a nice individual play.  Carrying the puck from his own end into the U.S.’s, Kane launched a laser beam of a rising wrist shot up and over Howard’s shoulder.

It seemed like the U.S. dealt Canada a death blow when at 16:19 of the 3rd period.  It was courtesy of another plumber, Nate Thompson, that the U.S. went ahead late in the game.  Canada was able to recover and scored a late goal of their own courtesy of a huge slap shot from the point by Keith.  He really stepped into the shot.

Some bad luck happened for Canada with only 1 second left in the game.  Trying to clear the puck out of his own zone John Tavares batted the puck out of the air.  Unfortunately for him and his teammates the puck went over the glass and Tavares was assessed a delay of game penalty.

This was the first overtime of the tournament so far.  In overtime teams play 5 minutes of sudden death 4-on-4.  If still tied it would go to shootout.  Because of Tavares’s penalty Canada started the game having to start overtime 3-on-4.  On the big international ice a 4-on-3 leaves for a lot of open ice.  The United States took advantage of that.

They controlled the puck for long stretches in Canada’s end.  It finally paid off when, with Paul Stastny standing in front of Ward screening him partially, Jack Johnson walked in from the point and wristed a shot that beat Canada’s goalie five-hole.  It was his second power play goal and the winner for the U.S.  On this day he truly was a captain who led his team.

It was a well-earned victory for the United States as they outplayed Canada for most of the game.  This game gave Canada one point for the overtime loss and two to the United States for the overtime win.  The win puts the U.S. in first place in Group A with 5 points and Canada in second with 4 points.  Canada’s next game is very early Monday morning versus France.

Game Stats:
-On-Ice Officials: Referees:  Vyacheslav Bulanov (Russia) and Konstantin Olenin (Russia)
Linesmen:  Petr Blumel (Czech Republic) and Sergei Shelyanin (Russia)
-Goals:  1st Period:
1:10: United States – Jim Slater assisted by Ryan Lasch
6:38:  Canada – John Tavares assisted by Duncan Keith
2nd Period:
7:34:  Canada – Jeff Skinner assisted by John Tavares and Jay Bouwmeester
13:54:  United States – Jack Johnson assisted by Max Pacioretty and Bobby Ryan
3rd Period:
6:43:  United States – (sh) Patrick Dwyer unassisted
9:51:  Canada – Evander Kane unassisted
16:19:  United States – Nate Thompson assisted by Patrick Dwyer and Joey Crabb
18:21:  Canada – Duncan Keith unassisted
1:47:  United States – (pp)  Jack Johnson unassisted
-Shots on Goal:  Canada:  34
United States:  46
-Players of the Game:  Canada:  John Tavares
United States:  Jim Slater
-Final Score:  Canada:  4
United States:  5   OT

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