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Canada squeaks past USA in shootout

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
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Rangers forward Derek Stepan turned in a brilliant performance on Friday, scoring a game-tying goal in the third period, but it wasn't enough for Team USA to avoid a 4-3 loss to Team Canada in an overtime shootout at the IIHF World Championship tournament at Kosice, Slovakia.

The American team that includes three members of the Rangers organization, opened qualification-round play by gaining a point with the overtime loss. Team USA nearly found a way to win on Friday, despite being outshot 51-20, because its other hero was goaltender Ty Conklin of the St. Louis Blues.

Conklin stopped a remarkable 48 Canadian shots, but he allowed goals to Jordan Eberle and Rick Nash in the OT shootout. Both goals came on dekes to the backhand.

Derek Stepan
Canada's goalie, James Reimer of the Toronto Maple Leafs, made 17 saves in regulation and overtime before stopping Jack Johnson and Blake Wheeler in the shootout to give Canada two of the available three points. The Canadian team, which includes a number of NHL stars, has yet to lose at this year's World Championships.

Team Canada had trailed 2-1 after two periods and nearly managed to win in regulation time before Stepan's heroics saved a point for Team USA.

Stepan got the tying goal -- his first of the tournament -- on a power play when he executed a perfect give-and-go with Blake Wheeler in the right circle. Stepan's shot beat Reimer to the short side at 11:17 of the third. The puck hit Reimer in the left shoulder and trickled in behind him for a 3-3 tie.

Stepan's big third period featured 6:37 of ice time. He finished the game with a total of 19:20 of ice time -- second only to Wheeler among U.S. forwards. He had three total shots on goal and was even for the game.

Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, bumped up to the top defense pair with Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks, had two shots on goal in 17:54 of ice time. Blueshirts prospect Chris Kreider, the team's No. 1 draft choice in 2009, had no shots in 9:30 of ice time.

Stepan's goal negated a two-goal Canadian surge that turned a 2-1 U.S. lead into a 3-2 Canadian advantage in the final period.

Canada had tied the game at 3:27 of the third, just four seconds after Team USA killed a boarding penalty to Chris Porter. Amid heavy pressure, John Tavares of the Islanders got the tying goal during a scramble that also involved Jeff Skinner, a Calder Trophy candidate from the Carolina Hurricanes.

Taking a pass from Chris Stewart just outside the crease to Conklin's left, Tavares was stopped by Conklin on his initial shot, but stuck with the play to put the rebound in behind the U.S. goalie.

Ryan McDonagh
The Canadians grabbed their first lead of the game on another power play at 5:22 of the third, capitalizing on a hooking penalty to Kevin Shattenkirk just 12 seconds earlier. Ottawa Senators star Jason Spezza got the goal with a long blast from the top of the right circle that sailed into the top of the net.

Conklin kept the lead at one-goal by stopping Canadian defenseman Dion Phaneuf on a breakaway moments after the Spezza goal.

The second period had belonged to Team USA, which found a way to take its 2-1 lead despite Canada dominating territorial play.

Outshot 16-7 in the middle period, the Americans went ahead 1-0 on a goal by Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek at 4:13 of the second period, and Stepan played a big role in the game's first tally.

Stepan came over the blue line and made a perfect pass from the left point to Komisarek at the right point. The puck bounced off the right boards right onto Komisarek's stick, and the USA defenseman's long shot fooled Reimer.

The assist was Stepan's fifth of the tournament, extending his scoring streak to four games. It also gave him the USA scoring lead at five points -- a number that went up to six with his third-period goal.

Shortly after Komisarek's goal, Conklin kept it a 1-0 lead when he denied Nash from just outside the crease. Fowler took a penalty during the Canadian surge that followed Nash's scoring chance, and Team Canada cashed it with a power-play goal by charging defenseman Brent Burns just as Fowler was about to come out of the box at the 7:20 mark.

Team USA got another man-advantage of its own just 37 seconds later when Phaneuf was called for holding, but the Americans couldn't convert despite a long stretch of puck possession in the Canadian zone.

Conklin then made a tough save on a one-timer from Spezza at 9:30 to keep the game tied, and that save would prove big when the Americans managed to go up 2-1.

Johnson, who was called for cross-checking at 11:38 of the second, gave the U.S. its 2-1 lead with a breakaway coming out of the penalty box at 13:47. Johnson burned Reimer off a heads-up feed from Wheeler, who had been killing the end of Johnson's penalty.

The Americans nearly scored again with 1:30 left in the period when McDonagh fired a shot from the top of the right circle with Stepan setting a screen in front of the net, but Reimer managed to make the save.

Chris Kreider
Stepan had 5:20 of ice time in the second period, while Kreider had 4:09, and McDonagh played 4:46 to go with his shot on goal.

The first period ended in a scorelss tie with the Canadians outshooting Team USA 14-4, but unable to score against a red-hot Conklin, who was making his first start of the tournament after Al Montoya had started all three preliminary-round games.

The veteran Conklin recorded some spectacular stops among his 14 total saves in the opening 20 minutes. These included a point-blank save against Skinner at the 7:05 mark and another big stop on Cal Clutterbuck moments later. Midway through the period, he held up under heavy Canadian pressure, making his best save on Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers. With nine minutes to go, he robbed Columbus Blue Jackets All-Star Nash.

Stepan drew the only penalty against Team Canada in the opening period when he was tripped by Skinner as he came out of the USA zone.

Kreider was also involved in a first-period penalty call, as he was whistled for holding Jason Spezza behind the Team USA goal at the 17:07 mark.

Stepan continued to show great chemistry with linemate Craig Smith, his former University of Wisconsin teammate, on the No. 1 line throughout the first period. He created a prime scoring chance for Smith with a pretty backhand pass into the slot at 13:30, but the shot was stopped by Reimer.

The Americans got a scare early in the period when Shattenkirk was crushed into the boards by Marc Methot behind the Canadian net. Shattenkirk was slow getting up, but managed to return to action.

Stepan finished the first period with on shot in 6:09 of ice time -- the most of any U.S. forward. Kreider played 4:04 in the first period and McDonagh  had 5:11 of ice time in the first.

Team USA continues qualification-round play on Saturday against France. The game will air live on Versus at 2:15 p.m. ET. The Americans are tied for third in Group F with two games remaining. Since the top four Group F teams will reach the quarterfinals, a regulation-time win over France would likely ensure the U.S. (2-1-1) a spot there.
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