By Glenn Odebralski for floridapanthers.comSweden 4 – United States 2
::: A battle nobody wanted. Playing on Sunday, in the early game at the World Championships.
Both the United States were close in making the gold medal games, both losing tough games to Russia and Canada respectively in the semis. But there was pride and a bronze medal on the line.
And the same thing that got the United States in trouble against Russia, reared it’s ugly head Sunday in Berne: penalties. Sweden would score four power play goals on their way to a 4-2 victory over the United States.
The bronze medal was Sweden’s first medal since 2006. The United States medal droubt has now reached five years, their last being a bronze medal in 2004.
Just like many of the other playoff games, both teams went scoreless in the opening period of play, despite numerous opportunities early on in the first.
Toronto’s Jason Blake almost single-handily gave the Americans a 1-0 lead, weaving in and out of Swedish defenders before being stopped by netminder Stefan Liv. Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown also had a great chance later on. Sweden on the other side had their chance as Johan Harju had a nice close-in shot but was thwarted by Robert Esche.
The United States would finish the period with a 16-9 shot advantage.
Jack Johnson (Los Angeles) took a return feed from John Michael Liles (Colorado) and let go a blast from the point 5:14 into the second while on the power play, giving the US a 1-0 lead.
Sweden would tie the score however with a power play goal of their own. Stationed in the slot, Loui Eriksson would take a pass from Tony Martensson from behind the net and beat Esche 27 seconds into a Drew Stafford (Buffalo) elbowing penalty, 13:24 into the second. The Swedes would take a 2-1 lead into the third, this time off a 5-on-3 man advantage goal. Matt Niskanen (Dallas) was sent to the box at the 14:55 mark for hooking. Then 50 seconds later, Ron Hainsey (Atlanta) was sitting for delay of game. Some luck would give the Swedes their first lead of the game. Martensson’s attempted pass would end up going in off of Johnson’s stick with 58 seconds remaining in the two-man advantage and with 4:03 left in the period.
The Americans would tie the score at two with a great individual effort by Joe Pavelski. The San Jose forward skated around Carl Gunnarsson to the outside and took a snap shot just outside the left face-off circle. The puck beat Liv to the top right corner of the net 2:15 in.
Knotted at two, both teams had their chances. But the Swedes would get the game-winner with 11 minutes remaining in regulation.
Gunnarsson, who was victimized on the last goal, would get the last laugh and the game-winner nine minutes into the third with a blast from the point as David Backes (St. Louis) was sitting in the box for tripping.
Only down one, and time running out on a chance to tie, the US would pull Esche for an extra attacker several times in the last minute of play. But it was all for not due to bad penalties in the Sweden zone. Nashville’s Ryan Suter was sent to the box for cross-checking with 46 seconds left to play. Then Brown was sent to the box, also for cross-checking, with 28 ticks on the clock. Finding himself on a breakaway after getting the puck out of the Swedish zone, New Jersey’s Johnny Oduya salted away the victory with another power play goal with one second left on the clock.
Keith Ballard finished the game a plus-one with three shots on net and 14:56 of ice time.