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U.S. BLOWS LEAD, FALLS TO FINLAND

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia - Despite 42 saves from Robert Esche (Utica, N.Y.), the U.S. Men's National Team lost a 3-2 decision to Finland here tonight in a game filled with controversy and penalties. It was the second qualifying-round game for both teams at the 72nd annual International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship.

Taking a 2-0 lead into the third period, the U.S. got into penalty trouble early in the final period. With Finland enjoying a two-man advantage, Ville Koistinen's shot went through the side of the net and into the back of the goal at 2:12. The play was counted as a goal on the ice and after video review, the call was upheld. The IIHF formally acknowledged after the game the goal should not have counted and said the video goal judge that staffed the game will not be working the remainder of the tournament.

"I'm not sure what the replay official was looking at. I could see from the bench it went through the side of the net and, needless to say, I was shocked when they counted it," said John Tortorella, head coach of Team USA. "The bottom line, however, is that we didn't deserve to win the hockey game. I thought Esche played really well and gave us a chance."

After a scoreless first period, Tom Gilbert (Minneapolis, Minn./Edmonton Oilers/University of Wisconsin) put Team USA out in front at 1:30 of the second period. Just a second after a five-minute penalty to Olli Jokinen had expired for checking Tim Gleason (Clawson, Mich./Carolina Hurricanes) from behind, Lee Stempniak (West Senec, N.Y./St. Louis Blues/Dartmouth College) poked the puck to Gilbert between the circles and he wasted little time flipping it high into the net for his first goal of the World Championship. Esche made a spectacular glove save on Mikko Koivu's shorthanded shot from point-blank range in the final minute of middle stanza and on the ensuing U.S. rush up the ice, Phil Kessel (Madison, Wis./Boston Bruins/University of Minnesota) capitalized to stake the Team USA to a 2-0 advantage with just :45 left in the period. Stempniak and Paul Martin (Minneapolis, Minn./New Jersey Devils/University of Minnesota) drew assists on the goal.

With the U.S. ahead 2-1 after the Koistinen goal that should not have counted, Finland tied the game on a nice three-way passing play that was finished by Teemu Selanne with a tap-in from the side of the net at 10:44 of the third period. The game-winner came on a goal-mouth scramble that was eventually put in by Mikko Koivu at 16:10, just a second after a penalty to Team USA's James Wisniewski (Canton, Mich./Chicago Blackhawks) expired.

The U.S. Men's National Team will complete play in the qualification round tomorrow (May 12) against Norway at 12:30 p.m. AT.

NOTES: The game included 202 total minutes in penalties, including 106 on Team USA and 96 on Finland. David Backes (Minneapolis, Minn./St. Louis Blues/Minnesota State Mankato) received a match penalty at the 20:00 mark of the third period and can not play tomorrow against Norway as a result. Finland lost two players due to match penalties ... Esche made 22 saves in the third period, many during five Finland power plays ... Team USA has advanced to the quarterfinal round of the IIHF World Championship, regardless of the outcome of its game tomorrow against Norway. The U.S. will play its quarterfinal game at 8:15 p.m. AT on Wednesday (May 14) in Halifax against a yet-to-be-named opponent ... Robert Esche entered the game tonight 6-2-1 in nine previous games in the World Championship (1.70, .945) ... 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.

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