In a game they hope may be indicative of future success at the upcoming IIHF World Championship, Jimmy Howard and Richard Bachman combined to stop 41 shots and the United States beat tournament co-host and defending silver medalist Sweden 3-2 in an exhibition game staged Tuesday at Lakerol Arena in Gävle, about 107 miles north of Stockholm, which will host the World Championship along with Helsinki, Finland.
2012 IIHF HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP
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Jim Slater of the Winnipeg Jets, playing in his first World Championship since 2006, got the Americans on the board early, beating Swedish goaltender Viktor Fasth just 1:55 into the game to open the scoring. From there, Howard took over, stopping all 19 shots he faced in a furious first period.
Bobby Ryan added to the lead early in the middle frame and the Red Wings goalie would stop all six shots he faced in the second before giving way to Bachman halfway through the second. Shortly after that, Kyle Okposo scored, off an assist from Slater, to give the U.S. a commanding 3-0 lead.
Sweden would make a game of it late in the second, with Joel Lundqvist and Johan Larsson scoring in a 2:45 span to cut into the Team USA lead. But as Howard did before him, Bachman would shut the door, holding Sweden off the board in a third period that saw them outshoot the U.S. by a 12-3 margin. In the end, Howard and Bachman preserved the victory despite the U.S. being outshot 43-21.
"It was a good first game for our team," U.S. coach Scott Gordon said. "I liked our pace and we created some quality scoring chances. We look forward to the start of the tournament."
The United States starts tournament play against France on May 4 in Helsinki.
Canada 4, Switzerland 2
With their exhibition season now over, Team Canada may have found their top line. The trio of Patrick Sharp, John Tavares, and Jeff Skinner combined for three goals and seven points, as Canada wrapped up their pre-tournament exhibition series by beating Switzerland in Kloten.
The trio found chemistry early against the Swiss, with Tavares opening the scoring 3:24 into the game courtesy of assists from Skinner and Sharp. Andrew Ladd doubled the Canada lead halfway through the second, with his Winnipeg Jets teammate Evander Kane assisting. With a 2-0 lead halfway through the game, Canada appeared to be in the driver's seat. But the wild exchange that followed suddenly made a meaningless game a lot more interesting.
The Swiss rebounded quickly against Canada, scoring two power-play goals just 2:03 apart, with defenseman Goran Bezina, a Croatian-born veteran of the Swiss League, assisting on both tallies.
But the scoring surge wasn't done there. Just 65 seconds after Simon Moser tied the game for Switzerland, Sharp put Canada ahead to stay, with Tavares and Marc Methot getting helpers on the play. Cam Ward and Canada's defense held the fort from there, with Skinner's late goal icing the 4-2 win.
Sharp's assist on the clincher gave him three points in an improved effort for the Canadians, who were a second away from losing to Switzerland in their first matchup on Sunday. In that game, Jordan Eberle scored with less than a second remaining in regulation to force overtime before netting the shootout winner to give Canada a 2-1 win.
Between the two games, Hockey Canada announced the addition of Matt Hackett and Alexandre Burrows to their roster. Hackett and Burrows will both be representing Hockey Canada for the first time in international play.
Canada begins the World Championship against France on May 4, while the Swiss kick off the tournament against Kazakhstan on May 5.
Latvia 3, France 1
Defenseman Guntis Galvins led the charge for Ted Nolan's team, contributing two assists for Latvia in a game staged in Riga.