Four months removed from leading the United States National Junior Team to a gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, goalie John Gibson was up to his old acrobatic tricks Wednesday when he made 31 saves to lead the U.S. to a 4-1 victory against host Finland in preliminary-round play of IIHF 2013 World Championship, at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland.
Gibson received all the support he would need from Nashville Predators forward Craig Smith, who scored three goals, including an empty-netter with 42 seconds remaining. New Jersey Devils center Stephen Gionta also scored for the United States in the victory.
Gibson, who was making his first start in the fourth game for the United States, was terrific throughout and may have earned a prolonged stay between the pipes as a result. Ben Bishop had started the previous three games for the Americans, going 2-1 with a 3.04 goals-against average and .873 save percentage.
Smith's second goal of the game with his team on the power-play 3:22 into the second, gave the United States a 2-1 edge. Gionta then scored at the 11:29 mark to extend the lead to 3-1.
Finland had taken a 1-0 lead 5:53 into the first when Jarno Koskiranta scored, but Smith pulled the Americans even on a goal with just 2:14 remaining in the opening 20 minutes.
Gibson made 10 saves in the second and 14 in the third to help lead the club.
The 2011 second-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks yielded just nine goals on 202 shots in seven games in the WJC in January on the way to being named the top goalie of the tournament. He posted a 5-2 record with a 1.36 goals-against average and .955 save percentage, which established a new American record at the event.
The United States next plays Saturday, when it faces France at 5:15 a.m. ET (NBCSN). The U.S. is tied with Russia for first place in the Helsinki Group with nine points, but Russia has played one less game. The Russians will play France on Thursday.
Switzerland 7, Slovenia 1: The unbeaten Swiss scored three first-period goals as the top line of Simon Bodenmann, Denis Hollenstein and Luca Cunti combined for all three goals and nine points in a game played at Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. It marked the first time Switzerland scored seven or more goals at the World Championship since 2008 -- a 7-2 win against Denmark.
New York Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter had his three-game goal scoring streak snapped, but he did register an assist on a power-play goal by Simon Moser in the second when the Swiss built a 6-1 advantage. Switzerland next will face Denmark in Stockholm on May 11.
"We're playing our system for 60 minutes now," Niederreiter told the IIHF website. "We had a strong start against Sweden [in a 3-2 victory May 3], and we've just built on it. We have a new game plan for every team and know what we have to do. We have to play simple hockey. That's the key."
Germany 2, Austria 0: Goalie Rob Zepp made 27 saves and Marcus Kink scored twice, including an empty-net goal with nine seconds remaining, to lead Germany in Helsinki.
"We had a tough start in the first period but then we really started picking it up, every period," German defenseman Justin Krueger told the IIHF website. "We were disciplined toward the end and got the win."
Zepp made a game-high 14 saves in the first period when Austria turned on the heat. Austrian goalie Bernhard Starkbaum made 33 saves.
Kink had given Germany a 1-0 lead on an unassisted goal 17 minutes into the second.
Sweden 5, Norway 1: Gabriel Landeskog scored a pair of goals and Jacob Markstrom made 20 saves for the Sweden in a win at Globe Arena in Stockholm.
Landeskog and Loui Eriksson scored goals in the first period to give the host team a 2-0 lead.
Marius Holtet pulled Norway within one with a goal 11:53 into the second. Sweden then closed the scoring on third-period goals by Andreas Jamtin and Elias Falth before Landeskog, the Colorado Avalanche's captain, scored into an empty net with 3:27 remaining in regulation.
Dick Axelsson had three assists for Sweden, which moved into second place in the Stockholm Group, two points ahead of Canada and two behind first-place Switzerland.
Canada and Sweden will play Thursday at Globe Arena in Stockholm.