Having already lost once and facing a 5-on-3 power-play against, the United States secured their one-goal lead in the third period to hold on for a 4-3 victory against the Czech Republic on Saturday at the Under-18 World Championship in Sochi, Russia.
"We worked all year and every day in practice on defending the 5-on-3," U.S. forward Evan Allen said. "We pride ourselves on defense."
That defense arrived a little late on Saturday as the Czech team took a 2-0 lead in the first period of the Group A preliminary-round game. Adam Zboril finished a 3-on-1 at 12:18, then David Kampf converted a U.S. turnover into a shorthanded goal at 16:22.
The United States got within 2-1 with 21 seconds remaining in the first on a goal by Tyler Motte.
"The Czech team came in flying right away, which meant we knew straight away we were in for a game," U.S. forward J.T. Compher said. "We should have been a little more ready for it, but we weren't too shocked. We expect every team to be good in this tournament."
The United States took a 3-2 lead early in the second period. Compher, ranked No. 20 by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters in its mid-term rankings for the 2013 NHL Draft, scored 19 seconds in, and Motte added his second of the game at 3:34.
"Going into the second period, coach (Don Granato) gave us a great speech in the locker room," Allen said. "We knew we had to come back hard. It felt good to get those two goals in the second period."
The Czechs tied it 3-3 at 4:28 on another goal by Zboril, but the Americans regained the lead less than a minute later when Allen converted a pass from Mike McCarron, who fought off two defenders.
"We want to play a skill game, a lot of skating and passing, not rough play. But there wasn't too much aggression," Zboril said. "America is one of the best teams in the world and if we want to play with the best, we should expect it to be rough."
The third period was scoreless, thanks in part to a save by U.S. goaltender Thatcher Demko against leading Czech scorer David Pastrnak during the 37-second 5-on-3.
"It felt great to get the first win today," said Motte, ranked No. 120 by Central Scouting. "Obviously that was a tough one the other night against Russia [a 4-3 loss Thursday], a little heartbreaker. But that's what this tournament is all about. There are going to be ups and downs, but you have to find a way to battle through it."
The United States next plays Latvia on Sunday; the Czech Republic plays Finland on Monday.
Canada won its second game in a row, defeating Germany 3-1 in Group B play Saturday.
Connor McDavid had a goal and an assist and Madison Bowey and Yan Laplante each scored for Canada, which held a 3-0 lead midway through the second period.
The 16-year-old McDavid is tied for the tournament scoring lead with five points (two goals, three assists).
"I came here with not too many expectations, to put myself behind the team," McDavid said. "It's all team first. I'm playing well right now but, like I said, it's all about the team."
Bowey, a defenseman ranked No. 22 by Central Scouting, opened the scoring 1:27 into the game.
"It was a great pass Connor McDavid gave me," he said. "I had a lot of time and space so I just kind of took it and put it in."
Canada, which defeated Slovakia 4-1 in its opener, will play Switzerland on Monday; Germany plays Slovakia.
"The score doesn't really matter. Both games the score didn't reflect how well we played and how well we dominated," McDavid said.
"Nothing's really changed. I thought both games we played really well. Coming together in a short period of time, [with] everyone coming from all over Canada, it's tough to become a group, but we get better every game and hopefully will win the gold."
In other games Saturday, Ivan Barbashev scored twice for Russia in its 3-1 win against Finland; and Oskar Lindbolm had two goals for Sweden in a 6-0 win against Switzerland.
Information from the International Ice Hockey Federation was used in this report