By Glenn Odebralski for floridapanthers.com
The United States did something for the first time in their World Junior history Wednesday night thanks to the help of two Panthers prospects.
Both Drew Shore
and Nick Bjugstad
scored in the third period with Bjugstad's goal turning into the game-winner in a 4-2 victory in the Bronze Medal game against Sweden. It was the first time that the Americans had earned medals in back-to-back years (gold last year).
"We realized we had a chance at a bronze medal which is a great honor," said Bjugstad who finished with the goal on five shots in the game. "We made sure we bounced back (from the Canada game)."
"It definitely wasn't the game we wanted to be playing in but it felt right to win and I'm real proud of everyone because it's not an easy game to play in," said Shore, finishing with the goal on three shots and was a plus-one. "The main plan was to come in and play as hard as we could because it's the last time we had together as a group."
With the scored deadlocked at one after 40 minutes of play, the United States took the lead 52 seconds into the third. Shore, stationed in front of the net, redirected the point shot from Justin Faulk past Fredrik Petersson Wentzel (40 saves) who got the start in place of Robin Lehner.
"When the goalie is playing that good, you have to get in front of him and tip pucks and screen him so he can't see it," said Shore. "We able to do that and two of them went in."
Then with 8:20 left, it was Bjugstad's turn to play hero. Off to the left side of the net, Bjugstad redirected Nick Leddy's point shot from behind his back to give the Americans a 3-1 lead.
"I just went to the net and Nick Leddy took a shot and it just happened to go on my stick and I tipped it in," said Bjugstad. "That's how a lot of goals are scored these days, tipping them in."
Sweden got to within one off a nice individual effort by Jesper Fasth as he followed up on his own rebound while falling down with 5:42 left but Chris Kreider would restore the two goal lead with 1:53 with his second goal of the night as he finished off a two-on-one break with Kyle Palmieri.
After that it was time to sing the Star Spangled Banner and receive their medals.
"They (the coaches) told us in the locker room that we have yet to win back-to-back medals so that was definitely huge for USA hockey and it was great to be on the team," said Bjugstad.
The United States best player in the tournament, goaltender Jack Campbell, who would finish with 34 stops was on task from the beginning.
Palmieri had two cracks at getting the United States on the board with 5:22 gone in the opening period while on the power play. Working his way in close, Palmieri shot the puck and then followed up on his own rebound that went just over the top of the net as Petersson Wentzel got a piece of it.
Later in the period, with 5:30 left to play several US players had several chances with the puck bouncing around in the crease but Sweden had three defenders in front of the net to keep the game scoreless.
While the United States controlled the majority of the opening period and outshot Sweden 13-5 after 20 minutes of play, it would be the Swedes that would score the first goal of the game.
Working off a rush, Carl Klingberg sent the puck to Oscar Lindberg who fanned on his first shot but followed up on the attempt as the puck found it's way under a downed Campbell with 8:02 left in the second period.
The Americans answered the Sweden goal 1:34 later, thanks to the power play, their fourth attempt of the night. Working behind the Swedish net, Chris Brown found a wide open Kreider who slammed home the one-timer from the slot for his third goal of the tournament.
Sweden had a chance with the period coming to an end as Campbell looked behind him off a shot from the goal line by Johan Larsson but the US netminder had it under him with 7.3 seconds to play in the second.