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USA Falls To Slovakia

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets
It seemed as if Team USA would use its thrilling overtime win over Canada as a springboard for the rest of the World Hockey Championship. But in losing 4-2 to Slovakia this afternoon in Helsinki, it’s hard to see it as anything but a step backward.

The Americans were sluggish out of the gate and the Slovaks took advantage. The first shot on goal Jimmy Howard saw was a goal off the stick of Dominik Granak, making it a 1-0 lead just 47 seconds into the game. Slovakia kept pushing after the opening goal and did not allow Team USA much of an opportunity to get back into the game through the first 20 minutes.

Later in the first period, Tomas Kopecky set up Branko Radivojevic for the 2-0 goal. At the time, it looked like a backbreaker for the Americans, who had few quality scoring chances on goaltender Jan Laco. The Slovaks did well in slowing down the U.S.’ speed-based attack by standing up at the blue line and taking away opportunities off the rush. Team USA took advantage of a great shift and a misplay by Slovakia just after the 2-0 lead, as Justin Faulk ripped in a shot from the point after Kyle Okposo was denied on the door step.

But the most important goal of the hockey game came with six seconds left in the opening period. The Americans, guilty of being ragged in their defensive zone in the first period, struggled to exit the zone and gift-wrapped a goal to Slovakia. Andrej Sekera snuck in from the point to create an odd-man situation, and was able to poke the puck behind a sprawling Howard as the seconds ticked away. Down 3-1 headed to the second period, Team USA needed to come back with a more concerted effort in the middle frame.

On a 5-on-3 power play, Paul Stastny buried a centering feed from Max Pacioretty to bring Team USA within a goal at 3-2. The U.S. still had less than a minute of power-play time left over to start the third period, but the Slovaks killed it off to stun the momentum. Miroslav Satan capitalized on a turnover in the neutral zone with Howard pulled for an extra attacker, scoring into the empty net with 37 seconds remaining.

Next up for Team USA is Belarus on Thursday. The game will be aired live on the NBC Sports Network beginning at 9:15 a.m. EST.

METHOT RECORDS ASSIST: Marc Methot, who played limited minutes in Canada’s loss to Team USA over the weekend, drew 16:50 this afternoon in a 7-2 victory over France. Methot picked up an assist and was a +2 in the rebound win for the Canadians. Their next contest is Wednesday against Switzerland, and it will take place at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.

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