HELSINKI, Finland -- In a wild and highly entertaining affair, the United States hustled, battled, fought hard and played smart, defended diligently against Ilya Kovalchuk and the talented Russian forwards and nearly matched their offensive firepower too for most of sixty minutes, before ultimately losing 5-3.
“I thought it was an even-played game throughout most of the game,” said U.S. coach Joe Sacco. “Overall, besides the fact that we ended up on the short end of the stick and lost the game, I was pleased with our players effort and I thought the guys competed very hard against a good hockey team.”
With the closely contested game tied 3-3 in the third period, Yevgeni Medvedev scored from close in front with six-and-a-half minutes remaining to put the Russians ahead for keeps. A Russian defenseman beat Ben Bishop up high, while the goalie was sitting in the crease following a long and mad scramble in which a whistle many times is blown.
The game-winner wasn’t the only goal in which the Russians may have benefited from a fortunate bounce or lucky break.
“It’s tough, I think we deserved a little better fate,” said U.S. goaltender Ben Bishop, who stopped 25-of-30 Russian shots. “The first goal was off one of our guys sticks, then the scrum and another unlucky break in the third,” he said referring to an inadvertent high-sticking penalty called late in the game. “
Less than two minutes after Medvedev’s goal and Danny Kristo in the penalty box for a high-sticking call, Alexander Radulov scored on the power play to give Russia an insurance goal.
The United States, which entered the contest having scored four power play goals in 10 attempts, missed a golden opportunity when two Russian penalties early in the second period within 1:09, resulted in a 51-second 5-on-3 advantage. At one point, a Russian defender broke his stick to give the U.S. essentially a 5-on-2 edge, but the defending world champions were able to weather the storm.
“It is a missed opportunity with the game tied at 2-2,” Sacco said. “I called a time-out because I wanted our top line out there and wanted to give them some rest, but we didn’t capitalize on it.”
Stastny, who was named U.S. Player of the Game, had this to offer.
“I think we’re a young team and maybe we gave them too much respect. Maybe we were a little nervous, not as poised, and also because you are playing Russia, the defending champs. It was a fun atmosphere though tonight and a good learning experience for us.”
The U.S. was outshot 30-22, with 12 Russian shots coming in the third, but did a respectable job of limiting opportunities, including Kovalchuk, who scored to tie the game in the first period, but was held to only one shot on goal. However, ultimately it was not enough.
“I think for the most part, we did a good job of executing our game plan,” Sacco said. “I think in the third period it got away from us a little bit, but we’re still right in the game at 3-3. At that point, I think we’re looking at trying to take the game into overtime without sitting back on our heels.”
In less than 24 hours, Team USA is back in action, taking on the undefeated tournament host Finland, in what will surely be a loud and energetic atmosphere in Hartwall Arena.
“It’s a short tournament so we have to put this one behind us right away,” Sacco said. “There’s a lot of good things we can take out of this game and get re-focused for Finland tomorrow night.”