• Slovakia Advances Despite Loss to Russia
• McDonagh Postcard from Slovakia
• Rangers' Stats at World Championships
It was a rough day for Team USA at the 2011 World Championships against Sweden on Wednesday, but it was also a meaningless game, since the Americans had already clinched a spot in the tournament's qualification round.
Rangers forward Derek Stepan
, defenseman Ryan McDonagh
, and prospect Chris Kreider
suffered their first loss of the tournament vs. the Swedes, who scored three goals in the second period to run away with a 6-2 victory at Kosice, Slovakia.
The young American team, which had won its first two games against Austria and Norway, moved into the qualification round by finishing second in Group C. Team USA will play Canada on Friday, France on Saturday, and Switzerland on Monday in qualification-round games at Kosice. All three games will be televised live on Versus.
Forward Marian Gaborik
, the fourth Rangers representative at the Worlds, will open qualification-round play with his Slovak teammates against the Czech Republic on Friday, face Finland on Saturday and Denmark on Monday.
Stepan, Team USA's No. 1 center, led the Rangers contingent on Wednesday with a pretty first-period assist, two shots on goal, and 19:16 of ice time. He led all forwards in the game in ice time, finishing second on Team USA behind defenseman Jack Johnson, who logged 19:46.
Stepan's assist was his fourth of the tournament. His four total points tie him with Craig Smith for the Team USA lead after three games.
Kreider had one shot on goal in 18:16 of ice time -- the most action for a U.S. forward outside the top line. He was again on a line with Nick Palmieri of the New Jersey Devils and Ryan Shannon of Ottawa, and his 7:16 of ice time in the third period was the most of any U.S. player, as the Americans desperately tried to get back into a game they trailed 4-1 after 40 minutes.
McDonagh's day included 12:13 of ice time, no shots on goal, and a minus-1 rating.
On Wednesday, Team USA outshot Sweden 32-30, but Swedish netminder Viktor Fasth came up big with 30 stops, compared to 24 for U.S. goaltender Al Montoya.
Patrik Berglund of the St. Louis Blues paced Sweden with a pair of goals, including the first of the game.
Berglund got the ball rolling for Sweden when he took a feed in the high slot from linemate Martin Thornberg, who had stolen the puck off a clearing attempt at 17:31 of the first period. The U.S. defenseman had tried to fire a pass off the boards when Thornberg picked it off and centered the puck toward Berglund for the goal.
Only 39 seconds after Berglund's goal, the Swedes found themselves shorthanded, as Mattias Tedenby of the New Jersey Devils was called for holding at 18:10. Team USA, which outshot Sweden 13-10 in the first period, wasted little time on the power play in answering back to tie the game at 1-1.
Stepan made a tremendous play on the tying goal by defenseman Cam Fowler, as Stepan picked up the puck along the left boards and fed a perfect backhand to Fowler, who was crashing the net at the 18:43 mark. Stepan's linemate Smith, a former college teammate at Wisconsin, also assisted on the goal, which sent the teams into the first intermission in a 1-1 tie.
Stepan finished the first period with one shot on goal in 5:21 of ice time. Kreider, who drew a late penalty to Sweden's David Petrasek, saw even more ice time at 6:13, and McDonagh played 4:32 in the first.
The second period was a different story, as the Swedes erupted for three goals to take a commanding 4-1 lead.
Sweden went ahead for good at 3:17 of the second on a fluke goal after Montoya got tied up with a Swedish forward behind the U.S. goal The puck came out to Sweden's Marcus Kruger, who sent a backhand into the empty net.
The Swedes nearly scored again just under nine minutes into the second period when Oliver Ekman Larsson fired a shot that hit the right post and then rattled off the crossbar behind Montoya. They did, however, grab a 3-1 lead at 10:27 of the second when Mattias Sjogren took a pass in transition, skated over the blue line and fired a long, low shot that fooled Montoya through a screen.
Another Swedish goal, making it 4-1, came at 15:16 of the second, when Berglund picked up his second of the game by cashing in on a loose puck that had rebounded off the skate of a USA defenseman.
Shortly after the Berglund goal, Kreider used his speed to break into the Swedish zone all alone, but his shot was stopped by Swedish goalie Fasth.
Stepan added 7:27 of ice time in the middle period, bringing his two-period total to 12:48 -- the most among USA forwards. Kreider had the late shot on goal during his 5:20 of second-period ice time, and McDonagh added 3:40 of ice time to his total in the second period.
Second-period shots were even at 9-9, and Sweden held a 22-19 lead in shots after 40 minutes.
The only other U.S. goal came in the third period, when Smith picked up the puck in the neutral zone and sent a pass to Blake Wheeler, who was charging toward the net to the right of Fasth.
Wheeler slid a backhand from along the goal line that slipped in behind Fasth, who was caught out of position, cutting the lead to 4-2 at 10:29 of the third. That was as close as Team USA would get.
Jimmie Ericsson scored to restore a three-goal lead for Sweden at 16:01 when he skated down the right side, crossed over the blue line and fired a shot from the high slot between Montoya's pads to make it 5-2 and end any hope of a USA comeback.
Petrasek closed out the scoring with a power-play blast from just inside the blue line at 18:50 of the third period. The final goal came 1:10 after Team USA's Jack Johnson had gone off for cross-checking.
The game ended with obvious dislike between the two teams, as USA's Jack Skille scuffled with Staffan Kronwall of Sweden.