MINSK, Belarus - Tyler Johnson (Spokane, Wash./Tampa Bay Lightning) scored twice, Brock Nelson (Warroad, Minn./Univ. of North Dakota/N.Y. Islanders) had a single goal and goaltender Tim Thomas (Flint, Mich./Univ. of Vermont/Dallas Stars) turned in a 22-save effort to help the U.S. Men's National Team hold off Finland, 3-1, in its penultimate preliminary-round game at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's World Championship here today.
“I was really happy to see our guys compete the way they did tonight,” said Peter Laviolette, head coach of the 2014 U.S. Men’s National Team. “I thought it was our strongest game of the tournament. Defensively, we were fairly tight and we made the most of our chances offensively. We realize that it was an important game for both teams.”
Nelson's goal was scored on the first shift of the contest after the puck took an auspicious bounce off the glass. The play started when Seth Jones (Plano, Texas/Nashville Predators) fired the puck hard into the zone from center ice and Finland goaltender Pekka Rinne left his net to try and stop it. Before the puck got to Rinne, it deflected off a stanchion and right to Nelson at the doorstep, where he tapped it in to give the United States a 1-0 lead.
Both teams enjoyed limited offensive chances in the middle frame, thanks largely to sound defense at both ends and timely saves by Thomas and Rinne.
After a few big stops by Thomas in the early portion of the third period, Johnson scored from high in the zone at 6:42 to give Team USA a 2-0 advantage. Craig Smith (Madison, Wis./Univ. of Wisconsin/Nashville Predators) fed a pass in the neutral zone to Johnson, who walked to the middle of the ice just above the circles before threading a shot through a Finland defender and over Rinne's glove. Jones recorded his second assist of the game and seventh of the championship on the play.
The Finns broke through to make it a 2-1 game with 3:14 remaining in the third stanza when a shot from the top of the right circle bounced off a stick in front of Thomas and found its way to the back of the net. Johnson scored an empty-netter in the final minute to close out the U.S. win.
The U.S. Men's National Team (3-1-0-2) will conclude its preliminary-round schedule Tuesday (May 20) against Germany at 5:45 a.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network.