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Eichel's OT winner helps U.S. clinch Group B

by Staff Writer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Jack Eichel, a top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft, scored with 28 seconds left in overtime to help the United States rally for a 5-4 victory against Slovakia on Tuesday in a Group B preliminary-round game at the 2015 IIHF World Championship at CEZ Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

The U.S. led 3-0 27 seconds into the second period on a goal by Anders Lee (New York Islanders), but Slovakia scored four straight to take the lead. Charlie Coyle (Minnesota Wild) tied the game with 52 seconds left in the second when he scored off the rebound of a shot by Zach Redmond (Colorado Avalanche).

After a scoreless third period, time was running down in overtime when Eichel, NHL Central Scouting's No. 2-ranked North American skater for the 2015 NHL Draft, scored the winner unassisted.

Eichel played a long pass by Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes) in the Slovakia zone, spun away from Slovakia's Adam Janosik in the left corner, got to the top of the left circle and fired a shot that went through a screen by forward Trevor Lewis (Los Angeles Kings) and past goaltender Julius Hudacek.

"It was great to get the goal there," Eichel told the IIHF website. "That was a great play by Faulk to get the puck up and I don't think the goalie even saw it."

Eichel and Lee each had a goal and an assist for the U.S. Seth Jones (Nashville Predators) and Ben Smith (San Jose Sharks) also scored. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg Jets) made 21 saves.

[HUB] Follow the Blue Jackets at the 2015 IIHF World Hockey Championship

The victory clinched the top spot in Group B for the U.S. (5-1-0-1, 17 points) and a game against Switzerland on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

Marian Gaborik (Los Angeles Kings) and Vladimir Dravecky each had a goal and an assist for Slovakia. Adam Janosik and Milan Bartovic also scored. Goaltenders Jan Laco and Hudacek combined for 29 saves.

Slovakia finished fifth in the group standings with nine points (1-2-2-2).

Smith got the U.S. going 2:36 into the game with a goal before Jones scored at 4:11 off a set-up by Eichel, which ended Laco's game.

After Lee's goal put the U.S. ahead 3-0 early in the second Slovakia went on the attack. Gaborik scored a power-play goal and then Janosik's shot went off the stick of U.S. forward Brock Nelson (New York Islanders) and past Hellebuyck to make it 3-2.

With 3:32 left in the second, a shot by Slovakia's Marek Daloga hit U.S. defenseman Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets) and bounced to Dravecky, who scored to tie the game. Bartovic broke in 1:55 later and beat Hellebuyck to give Slovakia the 4-3 lead.

Coyle's goal in the final minute tied the score and gave the U.S. some momentum going into the third; the U.S. outshot Slovakia 9-2 in the period.

"For whatever reason it seems that second periods have been a struggle for us," Lewis said. "We definitely have to clean that up moving forward but Charlie's goal in the second was huge for us."

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