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Team USA reaches gold-medal game

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan glances up at a replay as he celebrates with teammates on the U.S. bench during the Americans' first-period onslaught.


Rangers captain Chris Drury and alternate captain Ryan Callahan will be playing for Olympic gold with Team USA on Sunday.

The Americans clinched at least a silver medal on Friday afternoon in Vancouver by dominating Finland in a 6-1 semifinal-round win. Team USA roared out to a 6-0 lead in the game's first 13 minutes and never looked back on its way to its first gold-medal game since the 2002 Games at Salt Lake City and its second in the past three Olympic years.

Joining Drury and Callahan as part of the U.S. bid for gold are Rangers head coach John Tortorella, an assistant to head coach Ron Wilson for Team USA, and Rangers assistant trainer Bruce Lifrieri, who is the team's massage therapist. While Drury, Tortorella and Lifrieri have all been part of Stanley Cup championships, none of the four Rangers has ever won an Olympic gold.

The U.S. squad is now a perfect 5-0 at Vancouver and is the only team without a loss in these Olympics. In the gold-medal game at 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, Team USA will Canada, which was a 3-2 winner over the Slovakia team that includes Rangers scoring leader Marian Gaborik in Friday's second semifinal.

Only one Blueshirt was less than thrilled with Friday's USA-Finland result. Finnish forward Olli Jokinen, obtained by the Rangers in a trade with Calgary at the beginning of this month, will be forced to settle for a shot at the bronze medal on Saturday night. Jokinen and the Finns will face Slovakia at 10 p.m. ET.

Jokinen saw 11:19 of ice time and had three shots on goal on Friday, including the first real scoring chance for his team late in the opening period and a hard shot from the left circle that required a big save from U.S. goaltender Tim Thomas in the third. He played on a line with Ville Peltonen and Jarkko Ruutu before former Rangers forward Jarkko Immonen moved up into Ruutu's spot when Ruutu went off for 12 minutes in penalties at 7:52 of the second period.

Drury and Callahan rotated on the U.S. fourth line once again on Friday, playing alongside David Backes and Bobby Ryan. They also played a huge role in the penalty-killing, showing the chemistry that has made them so successful for the Rangers in that role this season.

Drury played 11:06 and had a shot on goal early in the first period with the Americans leading 1-0. Callahan saw 8:15 of ice time without a shot on goal.

Overall, shots were even at 25-25, but it was the Americans' utter domination from the opening faceoff that made all the difference in the game. Team USA turned the game into a laugher within the first period's first 13 minutes, scoring a remarkable six goals in a span of 12:46 to reduce the rest of the game to garbage time.

Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks scored two of the goals with Paul Stastny, Zach Parise, Erik Johnson and Ryan Malone chipping in the others.

Finnish starting goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, a former Vezina Trophy winner with the Calgary Flames, set the tone for his team's collapse in the opening period when he effectively gave the Americans their first goal at the 2:04 mark.

The scoring play started when Phil Kessel broke into the Finnish zone with the puck well ahead of him. Kiprusoff came way out of his net above the hashmarks to clear it away from Kessel, hoping to push the puck to defenseman Sami Lepisto, who would carry it out of the zone.

However, Kiprusoff completely missed Lepisto and put it right on the stick of an oncoming Malone, who fired it into an unguarded net for a 1-0 lead.

That was just a sign of things to come, as Kiprusoff looked shaky in stopping shots from defenseman Ryan Suter and Drury before allowing back-to-back power-play goals by Parise at 6:22 of the first and Johnson just over two minutes later.

Parise scored the eventual game-winner as the U.S. applied heavy pressure just seconds after Finland's Janne Niskala went off for interference at 5:59

Stastny worked the puck down low to the left of Kiprusoff and slid a perfect pass through the crease to Parise, who shot it up and over the sprawling goaltender, just under the crossbar for a 2-0 lead.

Only 40 seconds after Parise scored, the Finns were penalized again, with defenseman Toni Lydman going off for boarding at 7:02. This time the Americans responded with their third goal, scored by Erik Johnson, a defenseman with the St. Louis Blues.

As Malone applied pressure on Kiprusoff, Johnson picked up the rebound of a shot by Joe Pavelski and scored from just inside the right faceoff circle. The goal, scored at 8:36, made it 3-0 with 34 seconds left in Lydman's penalty.

From there it was off to the races. The fourth U.S. goal, scored by Kane, was the one that drove Kiprusoff from the net at 10:08 of the first. Kane backhanded it the rebound of his own shot after it trickled off the stick of Niklas Hagman as it made its way back to Kane. The initial shot had come from outside the crease to Kiprusoff's right, and the goal came from the right circle, where Kane had managed to position himself after picking up the rebound.

Kiprusoff came out of the net at that point for Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, who did not fare much better over the next three minutes.

Kane welcomed Backstrom to the game by taking a long outlet pass from Brian Rafalski just inside the Finnish blue line, swooping down the right side and firing home a wrister from the right circle for a 5-0 lead at 12:31 of the first.

Rangers forward Olli Jokinen, shown fighting for position with USA's Ryan Kesler, had a long afternoon with his Finnish teammates. He will have a chance to win the bronze in his next game on Saturday night.
Stastny made it 6-0 just 15 seconds after Kane's goal when he took a cross-crease pass from Jamie Langenbrunner just to Backstrom's right and banged it in at the 12:46 mark.

The six goals tied an American Olympic record for goals in one period, set by the 1964 team in the third period of an 8-0 win over West Germany.

After Finland managed to stop the bleeding in a 6-0 hole, Jokinen ended up with his team's best scoring chance on Ryan Miller, when he managed to get open and fired a hard shot from just outside the crease to Miler's left at 19:10. That momentum led to the first U.S. penalty -- a call against Brian Rafalski and 19:48 of the first, but Callahan and Drury both did a strong job in killing of the penalty that carried into the middle period.

Team USA outshot the Finns 13-4 over the first 20 minutes. Jokinen finished the first period with 3:45 of ice time. Callahan and 2:56, and Drury had 2:31.

The second period was a much quieter affair, with no scoring and shots fairly even at 9-7 for Team USA. Drury and Callahan began the period killing a penalty, and Drury saw his ice time go up in the period to 3:33, while Callahan logged 2:39 of ice time. Jokinen, who was moved onto the line with Peltonen and Immonen, had one shot on goal in 4:24 of second-period playing time.

U.S. head coach Wilson opted to rest goaltender Miller about nine minutes into the third period, replacing him with Boston Bruins netminder Thomas. Miller, the Buffalo Sabres star, had a shutout going when he exited the game, just two days after shutting out the Swiss in the quarterfinals.

Thomas action was his first at the 2010 Games, as Miller had carried the U.S. goaltending load up until that point. Thomas gave up the lone Finnish goal to Antti Miettinen of the Dallas Stars on a power play with Erik Johnson in the box at 14:46 of the third period.
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