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Sweden Takes Down U.S.A

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TURIN, Italy (AP) -- Too bad Rick DiPietro can't defend one net and shoot at the other.

The American scoring woes have become so stark, something's got to give if the U.S. is going to make any noise in the Olympic men's hockey tournament. If only their stickhandling goaltender could provide help on offence and defence.

DiPietro made 24 saves in his third straight start, but for the second consecutive night the Americans came out on the short end of a 2-1 final Sunday. Sweden's Mikael Samuelsson won the game with a power-play goal in the third period.

Special teams proved to be the difference on both ends, as the U.S. went 0-for-5 on the power play and failed to convert two 5-on-3 advantages that lasted nearly two minutes each in the second period.

"You want to come out of that with something and we didn't,'' captain Chris Chelios said. "We forced them to take some penalties, it's right what you want to do, but we just didn't capitalize and it obviously cost us the game.''

DiPietro was solid in playing on back-to-back nights. He stood tall in the net, turning aside odd-man rushes, using his adept stickwork to shoot the puck far out of trouble, and stretching to reach pucks sailing toward the goal.

And to think that coming into the tournament the big question for the Americans was whether they were going to be able to keep pucks out of their net _ not the other way around.

"I would like to think that is going to change,'' U.S. coach Peter Laviolette said. "I believe we have the personnel in the locker-room to score goals.''

Sweden had just enough offence even without star Peter Forsberg, who rested and watched from the end of the bench one day after returning from a groin injury that forced him to miss the first two games of the tournament.

He is expected to return Tuesday against Slovakia in the final tuneup before the medal round.

"We just wanted to see how it felt after yesterday,'' Forsberg said. "It feels good, no problem.''

Unlike the offensive drought the Americans are locked in. They have managed only nine goals in four games _ four in their lone victory over Kazakhstan.

The two shots that eluded DiPietro were enough to prevent the United States (1-2-1) from locking up a berth in the quarter-finals, though the U.S. remains a near-certain qualifier for medal play.

Sweden (3-1), Russia and Slovakia, which beat the U.S. 2-1 on Saturday, are already in from Group B.

With only one preliminary game remaining, the United States is fourth of six teams and holds a two-point lead over Latvia. The only way for the Americans to be left out would be with a loss to Russia on Tuesday coupled with a Latvian victory over Kazakhstan in which the Latvians scored enough to overcome a double-digit goal differential with the Americans.

Only Mike Modano found the goal against Henrik Lundqvist, the New York Rangers goalie with the Statue of Liberty painted on his otherwise Swedish mask. That score, during a delayed penalty call late in the first period, got the Americans even. But that was all they'd get.

Daniel Alfredsson, who has three NHL goals against DiPietro this season, scored the first Swedish goal just 7:50 in, patiently flipping a shot over the flailing DiPietro.

The Swedes took the lead for good when Samuelsson got to a rebound of Alfredsson's shot and put it past DiPietro at 4:22 of the third _ just eight seconds after Jordan Leopold was sent off for holding.

Meanwhile, the Americans were whiffing on repeated close-in chances. Mark Parrish had a puck slide past his stick as the net yawned in front of him, and Modano could only look skyward when his long drive struck Lundqvist's mask and fell safely down before being covered.

"We're not finishing well, and you start to question everything,'' Modano said. "This team is pretty good, but it comes down to execution. Basically, we've done everything we wanted to, except put it in the net.''

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