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It was a tough night for Rangers defensemen Marc Staal
and Michael Del Zotto
, as well as backup goaltender Chad Johnson
, on Sunday at Mannheim, Germany, as their Team Canada squad fell to Sweden 3-1 in an IIHF World Championship qualification-round game.
Canada's loss was only its second of the tournament, and its first of the qualification round. Team Canada, assembled by Rangers legend Mark Messier, who is serving as his nation's General Manager in a break from his current role as Special Assistant to Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather, is still in strong position to earn a quarterfinals berth heading into its final qualification-round game against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
The Swedes played an aggressive, attacking game, and were only outshot by a narrow, 33-32 margin. Sweden got great netminding from Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who finished with 32 saves.
Gustavsson was at his best in the final period, making 12 stops and helping the Swedes kill off penalties to Oliver Ekman Larsson at 3:59 of the third and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman at 12:17.
Sweden had built up a 3-0 lead before Brooks Laich spoiled Gustavsson's shutout bid by getting Canada on the board with an unassisted, even-strength goal at 6:57 of the third period. Staal was on the ice for that goal.
After coming into the game in relief of Canadian starter Chris Mason, the No. 1 goaltender for the St. Louis Blues, Johnson matched Gustavsson save for save, stopping all nine shots he faced. Johnson, who played five games as a Ranger but spent most of the 2009-10 season with the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack, has now appeared in three of Canada's five games.
Staal was again paired on defense with Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres. He saw 15:04 of ice time and had a shot on goal in the first period. He finished the game with an even plus-minus rating.
Canada dressed eight defensemen, and the 19-year-old Del Zotto was the odd man out for the entire game. Although he was on the bench in uniform, he did not see any action for the first time since the tournament began.
Johan Harju scored the game's opening goal for Sweden just 2:35 into the first period off assists from Andreas Engqvist and Oliver Ekman Larsson, a 2009 Phoenix Coyotes first-round draft pick.
Former Nashville Predators prospect Jonas Andersson, who now plays in the KHL after four seasons in Finland, made it 2-0 for the Swedes with the first of his two goals at 1:47 of the middle period. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson of the Detroit Red Wings set up the first Andersson goal. Andersson scored again at the 4:51 mark off an assist from Niklas Persson, another KHL player on Team Sweden.
Following Andersson's second goal and a 3-0 Swedish lead, Team Canada starter Chris Mason was lifted for Johnson, who would play the rest of the way.
The Canadians pulled Johnson for an extra attacker with a full 2:04 left in the game. Despite applying heavy pressure, they could not get any shots past Gustavsson.