The opening minutes weren't quite what the United States had pictured, but power-play persistence and hot sticks in a strong second period boosted them to a 7-2 win over France Friday in Helsinki.
Oilers defenceman Jeff Petry chipped in with a goal and a +1 rating in 14:06 of ice time.
Penalties to France’s Antoine Roussel and Teddy da Costa put the underdogs in a precarious opening-period predicament, but both were killed. Nicolas Besch then scored the icebreaker at 12:17 (on a play US netminder Jimmy Howard would like to have back), giving France their only lead of the game.
4:45 later, a heads-up neutral zone slap-pass by US’ Alex Goligoski connected with Kyle Okposo. The Islanders sniper scooted in, faked a forehand shot and slid a cheeky backhander past Cristobal Huet to even the score.
USA led 11-8 in shots through 20 minutes. From this point on, it was all red, white and blue.
The Americans made up for their earlier man-advantage botchery, netting a pair on three separate middle-period chances.
It all started 3:56 into the session when, with 33 seconds remaining in a hooking penalty assessed to France’s Anthony Guttig, Jack Johnson hammered home a one-timer that was bulleted through bodies and past the goaltender to put the Americans up 2-1.
Prior to the goal, Huet was brilliant in stopping several point-blank opportunities, including a wide-open, in-the-slot backhand by Bobby Ryan -- and another off a similar play in stoning Jim Slater moments later -- but the heroics were short-lived.
The US extended to a two-goal advantage, again on a power-play, near the period’s midway point; Ryan got his revenge, accepting a feed from Max Pacioretty and promptly depositing the puck at the back door.
The 5-on-4 tables turned moments later when a questionable slashing call was made to US’ Kyle Palmieri at 13:17. Just as the infraction expired and with Howard unable to corral a loose puck at the lip of the crease, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare whacked it past the sprawling netminder as it trickled across the line to make it 3-2.
USA regained its two-goal lead with only 22 seconds to play in the period. Off a draw, Pacioretty redirected a point shot past Huet on the Americans’ 27th shot.
With the game in hand, the Americans added three more in the third -- Slater, Okposo (2) and Oilers defenceman Jeff Petry were the goal-scorers. The Ann Arbor, Michigan, native launched a one-timer that screamed past Huet to stamp a dominant 7-2 win.
Petry saw limited action, as did Flames defenceman Chris Butler on the club’s third pairing. Neither was given much (if any) time on the power-play, although the pairing did anchor the US’ top penalty killing unit. In total, Petry played 14:06, notching a goal and a +1 rating.
Petry and the United States are back in action on Saturday, going up against Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Devan Dubnyk and the rest of Team Canada. Game time is at 10:00am MT.
CANADA 3 vs. SLOVAKIA 2
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Jordan Eberle’s name scribbled all over an international scoresheet. Ho hum, he added another vs. Slovakia to open the 2012 World Championship, upping his total to 24 goals and 45 points in 35 games while donning Canada’s iconic red and white maple leaf.
Jamie Benn and Andrew Ladd also scored, propelling Canada to a 3-2 win over Slovakia to open the tournament.
Devan Dubnyk celebrated his 26th birthday Friday, but did so from the bench as Carolina’s Cam Ward got the nod between the pipes. Ward has now started 11 career games at the World Championship, posting a 10-1 record. His lone setback came during the 2008 gold medal game vs. Russia.
Canada opened up a 1-0 lead with 5:40 to play in the opening period. Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf danced across the blueline with three Slovaks in chase, dishing to a down-low Jamie Benn who skirted the crease and slid the puck past an outstretched Peter Hamerlik on his club’s sixth shot.
Canada didn’t allow much of consequence, leading 9-5 in shots through 20 minutes. Cam Ward was sharp when he had to be, mind you, stoning Libor Hudacek as he walked into the slot and blistered a quick shot in the period’s waning moments.
The Slovaks’ persistence paid off 1:58 into the middle period. Detroit Red Wings prospect Tomas Tatar quickly snapped a one-timer short side on Ward to bring his squad back on even terms.
As a penalty expired to Slovakia’s Miro Satan, the Canadians kept pressing and were ultimately rewarded. Evander Kane dished to Eberle, who was perched in a prime shooting position inside the far circle; No. 14 collected the pass, set his sights and launched a snapshot through the goalie to restore Canada’s one-goal advantage, 12:30 into the second.
2:51 and one shot later, the lead was extended to a 3-1 margin. A lazy clearing attempt by Kristian Kudroc allowed Teddy Purcell and Ryan O’Reilly to help orchestrate a centering pass to Andrew Ladd down the middle. The Jets captain corralled the puck, skate-to-stick, before hammering it home through Hamerlik’s wickets.
Although Canada was in possession of a 3-1 lead heading into the third, Alex Burrows couldn’t help his team seal the deal. The 31-year-old was drilled by Tomas Kopecky and Ivan Baranka around the period's midway point. Burrows went down in a heap, striking his head on the ice and leaving with an obvious wobble in his step.
Slovakia made the game interesting 2:59 into the third. On his team’s 10th shot, Milan Bartovic snapped a 40-foot wrister past Ward, but that was as close as it got.
Eberle concluded the game with a goal and +1 rating in 13:59 of ice time. And in his international debut in a men’s tournament, Nugent-Hopkins went 3-for-7 in the dot, had a shot on goal and was an even rating in 11:49 played.
Canada gets back in action on Saturday vs. Jeff Petry and Team USA.
CZECH REPUBLIC 2 vs. DENMARK 0
With Jeff Petry and Jordan Eberle getting on the board earlier on, Ales Hemsky was pressured to do the same. The 28-year-old netted the go-ahead and game-winning goal at 19:55 of the season period, en route to a 2-0 Czech Republic win over Denmark.
It was a goaltender’s dual for most, as Danish netminder Frederik Andersen was peppered with 24 Czech attempts, many of which were engineered during his opponent’s three highly-dangerous, but ultimately unsuccessful, power-play chances.
At the other end, Jakub Kovar was stellar, answering all 26 shots he was challenged with to record the shutout. Denmark was also presented with four separate man-advantage opportunities, but none could be converted upon.
Hemsky’s goal wasn’t the end-to-end beauty full of clever stick work that we’ve come to expect from No. 83. Instead, he crashed the crease and put a stamp on pinpoint passes by Tomas Plekanec and ex-linemate Petr Nedved who, since his last stint in Edmonton in 2006-07, has spent his time putting up big numbers in the Czech Extraliga.
Hemsky added two shots on goal, was a +1 and also picked up a hooking minor in 14:36 of ice time.
Late in the game and with Denmark’s Philip Larsen losing his cool amid a hotly-contested board battle (pulling out of position in the process), Petr Tenkrat blasted a one-timer on Andersen’s short side, putting the game out of reach with under three minutes to play.
Hemsky and the Czech Republic get back in action on Saturday vs. Sweden. Puck drop is 11:15am MT.
ROUND ROBIN SCHEDULE & RESULTS (all times mountain) Friday, May 4: