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U.S. medal hopes ended at Worlds

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Rangers first-round draft pick Chris Kreider, 18, was impressive in the loss to the Finns, picking up an assist and nearly tying the game in the third period. He did it in limited ice time, on the U.S. fourth line.
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Team USA's gold-medal hopes came to an end on Wednesday at the 2010 IIHF World Championship tournament, as the Americans fell to Finland 3-2 at Cologne, Germany.

With the loss, the U.S. finished fourth in the four-team Group D. The Americans went 0-1-2 in the three round-robin games and will move into the 16-team tournament's relegation round, where they can finish no higher than 13th overall.

After taking an early 1-0 lead on a first-period tally by David Moss of the Calgary Flames, the Americans did not get another goal until only 18 seconds remained in the third and they were trailing 3-1. T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues scored while killing a late penalty to add some drama to the game, but the goals by Finland's Leo Komarov, Jarkko Immonen and Sami Kapanen were too much to overcome.

The Finns outshot Team USA by a wide 43-22 margin, and only the goaltending heroics of Florida Panthers netminder Scott Clemmensen kept the score close. Clemmensen finished with 40 saves, while Finland's Petri Vehanen, a 32-year-old career European-league player, had a much quieter evening with half as many stops.

Two Rangers players -- forward Brandon Dubinsky and defenseman Matt Gilroy -- played in the game along with Blueshirts 2009 first-round draft pick Chris Kreider, who won an NCAA title at Boston College this past season.

Dubinsky saw the most action of the three, skating a total of 18:31 to finish fourth among U.S. forwards. He was relied on heavily in the third period, seeing 6:44 of ice time and firing two shots. His four total shots on goal tied Oshie for the team lead.

Kreider saw 7:58 of ice time and picked up an assist in another strong performance by the youngest player on Team USA. The 18-year-old had one shot on goal and was plus-1 for the game. He skated 2:18 in the third period and was on the ice in some key situations with his team trailing 2-1.

Gilroy and his defense partner, Taylor Chorney, were among the eight defensemen dressed by USA head coach Scott Gordon of the Islanders. As the desperation set in, Gordon shortened his bench after the first period, no longer usinig his fourth defense pair. As a result, Gilroy played a total of only 2:41, all in the first period.

The final score was a disappointment after a very strong start by the Team USA, which wasted no time getting on the board when Moss scored at 3:30 of the first period off assists from Jack Johnson and Kreider.

Moss scored from the right circle when his attempted centering pass to Ryan Potulny deflected in off the stick of a Finnish defenseman who was diving to break up the play. Kreider had helped start the play during a line change, sending the puck up to Johnson -- who fed Moss at the blue line, also picked up an assist.

Moss' tally was the only goal of the first 20 minutes.

The Finns tied the game at 15:52 of the second period on a goal by Komarov, who stepped over the blue line with a hard, long slap shot that beat  Clemmensen to the glove side at 15:52. Immonen, a former Rangers forward, picked up an assist on Komarov's goal.

Immonen would play an even bigger role in the victory in the third period, when the Finns cashed in on a power play that had rolled over from late in the second -- a slashing call against USA's Jack Hillen.

After receiving a pass out of the right faceoff circle from Mikko Maenpaa, former Minnesota Wild defenseman Petteri Nummelin -- stationed just inside the blue line directly across from Clemmensen-- blasted a shot through traffic. Immonen deflected the puck past Clemmensen for a goal the U.S. goaltender never saw coming just 18 seconds into the third period.

Just over three minutes into the third, Immonen then hit the far post after fooling Clemmensen with a wrister from the right circle.

Kreider had a chance to tie the game with under seven minutes remaining, when he came out from behind the net and tried a stuff-in shot at the right post. Vehanen stood his ground and made the stop.

Finland's Kapanen, an 831-game NHL veteran who now plays in his native country, iced the victory when Nummelin sprung him on a breakaway just over the blue line at 17:58 of the thirdj. Kapanen flew through the left faceoff circle to burn Clemmensen for a 3-1 lead.

Team USA pulled Clemmensen with 1:40 remaining, but two seconds after Clemmensen left the ice, T.J. Galiardi was called for slashing, forcing Clemmensen back into the net for a faceoff in the U.S. zone.

Given a power play, Finland controlled the puck in the U.S. zone until Oshie scored on a shorthanded breakout play with 18 seconds left. Oshie was sprung with a long pass from defenseman Keith Yandle. He made a brilliant move to skate away from the defenseman and get free in the left faceoff circle, where he rifled a drive past Vehanen's glove to make it a 3-2 game.

Gordon called timeout and the U.S. tried to diagram a play for the final 18 seconds. It was too little, too late, however. After the puck went over the glass, Dubinsky came on to take a final faceoff in the Finnish zone with 10 seconds left. He won that draw, but the Americans were unable to convert.

The Americans made some slight line changes heading into the game. Dubinsky skated on a line with Kyle Okposo and Oshie of the St. Louis Blues after having had Foligno alongside him for the first two games. Kreider also changed linemates, as he was placed on the fourth line with Tim Kennedy and Eric Nystrom.

Team USA's next game will take place on Saturday against Kazakhstan.

The four teams in the round-robin relegation round -- USA, Kazakhstan, Italy, and France  -- will compete for the right to return to the Worlds' elite division next year. The U.S. must finish among the top two teams in that group to avoid relegation to the lower First Division.

In other games played Wednesday, Canada fell to Switzerland 4-1 in Mannheim, Germany beat Denmark 3-1 in Cologne, and Latvia downed Italy 5-2 in Mannheim.
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