MINSK, Belarus -- Trailing Latvia 3-1 nearly midway through the contest, the U.S. showed resilience by netting two power-play goals within a span of 2:03 to steal the momentum.
Brock Nelson and Tyler Johnson led the charge with the man-advantage tallies in a wild, whistle-filled second period. Seven minor penalties were called against Latvia and three against the Americans. Both teams also had 5-on-3 power plays, each for one-minute and twenty-three seconds.
Although the U.S. was unable to convert on its two-man advantage, the pair of power play goals gave a youthful U.S. team – trying to rebound from a lopsided loss to Russia – new life.
“We had a two-goal hole there; we needed to battle back and the power play unit did a good job giving us momentum, and we capitalized on a couple of plays there,” said Nelson, who made a nifty reverse move in front of the Latvian net, before roofing a backhander for the team’s second goal.
Defenseman Seth Jones had a strong night offensively, contributing a third period goal and two assists, including on Nelson’s power play score.
“The special teams were working at times; we were two-for-seven out there, although I don’t think that is really good enough,” Jones said of the team’s power play unit.
Johnson, an NHL Rookie of the Year candidate, buried a rebound to knot the game with nine minutes remaining in the second period.
“It was good puck movement on the PP there; it just kind of bounced out in front,” Johnson said. “It was kind of a garbage goal, but it was the tying goal and we got a lot of momentum.”
However, mistakes and turnovers by the U.S. against a tenacious Latvian squad were costly in the third period. Latvia scored three goals in a span of 6:14 to climb back to a 6-4 lead. Despite a late goal by Nelson with Tim Thomas pulled for an extra attacker, the U.S. fell one goal short.
“As a team we made some mistakes; I think everybody could have been better in certain situations,” said U.S. head coach Peter Laviolette about the team’s disappointing third period. “We gave up the guts of the ice too many times and when that happens bad things can happen.”
“It was an exciting game, but giving up six is too many goals,” Jones said. “It wasn’t just Tim (Thomas), it’s not just the D or the forwards, it’s everyone together as a unit. Scoring five goals should be more than enough, we just have to tighten up defensively.”
“You have to be a little frustrated, but at the same time you have to use it to fuel you for tomorrow,” Johnson said.
Team USA is back on the Minsk Arena ice tomorrow afternoon in an important game against 0-4 Kazakhstan. Russia and Latvia are ahead of the U.S. in the group B standings. The Americans are tied with Belarus for the fourth and final position for the quarterfinals, one point ahead of Germany with three preliminary round games remaining.
“We have to have short term memory, when we leave the rink tonight we’re going to forget about this one,” Jones said. “We have to come out tomorrow even more prepared.”
“We’re young and we’re going to continue to work at this,” Laviolette said. “Tomorrow is the most important game of the tournament.”
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