HALIFAX, Nova Scotia - The U.S. Men's National Team, behind 24 saves from Tim Thomas (Flint, Mich./Boston Bruins/University of Vermont) and four power play goals, earned a 4-0 victory over Latvia here tonight in the opening game for both teams at the 72nd annual International Ice Hockey World Championship.
"I give our guys a lot of credit," said U.S. Head Coach John Tortorella, the all-time winningest American-born coach in National Hockey League history. "Latvia is a very tough team to play against and I like the way we grinded it out."
Team USA had a 1-0 lead after the opening period. The goal came on the first of three U.S. power play opportunities in the stanza as Dustin Brown (Ithaca, N.Y./L.A. Kings) put home the rebound of a Paul Martin (Minneapolis, Minn./New Jersey Devils/University of Minnesota) shot from the center point. Patrick Kane (Buffalo, N.Y./Chicago Blackhawks) was also credited with an assist on the play.
The U.S. scored the only goal of the second period when Kane put a wrist shot from the side of the right circle into the upper corner of the net at 8:44 with Team USA on the power play. Martin drew an assist on the play. Lee Stempniak (West Seneca, N.Y./St. Louis Blues/Dartmouth College) was hauled down going in alone on a break at 11:34 and a penalty shot was awarded. Stempniak, who led Team USA in points at the 2007 IIHF World Championship, was stopped, however. Thomas was solid in goal and made a handful of point blank saves, including on Herberts Vasiljevs shot from the bottom of the left circle with :26 left in the period.
Zach Parise (Faribault, Minn./New Jersey Devils/University of North Dakota) staked Team USA to a 3-0 lead 7:09 into the third period when he put home the rebound of his own shot at the right side of the net. Kane made a nice move to the slot before feeding Parise. Patrick O'Sullivan (Winston-Salem, N.C./L.A. Kings) finished the scoring with a power play goal at 11:05 when he banged in his own rebound. Peter Mueller (Bloomington, Minn./Phoenix Coyotes) and Martin gained assists.
Team USA will practice tomorrow before facing Slovenia on Sunday (May 4) at 8:15 p.m.
NOTES: Team USA wore replica jerseys from the 1960 gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey Team tonight. It will be their lone appearance in the jersey in the tournament ... Dustin Brown (Ithaca, N.Y./L.A. Kings), who scored Team USA's first goal of the game and one that proved to be the game-winner, had three goals in Team USA's first game of the 2006 IIHF World Championship, a 3-1 win over Norway ... Team USA had the first 13 shots on goal in the third period. Latvia's first shot on goal in the period came with 10 minutes gone in the stanza ... The U.S. outshot Latvia in the game by a 49-24 count ... Team USA has won its first game of the IIHF World Championship in each of the last four years ... All 56 games from the 2008 IIHF Men's World Championship will be broadcast live on WCSN.com . The 2008 U.S. Men's National Team is under the direction of Jim Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, and a four-member advisory group, including NHL general managers Brian Burke (Anaheim), David Poile (Nashville), Ray Shero (Pittsburgh) and Don Waddell (Atlanta). Tony Rossi, vice president of USA Hockey and its international council chair, oversees all aspects of international competition for USA Hockey.