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Two games into the 2010 Olympic schedule, Team USA is a perfect 2-0.
Exactly 48 hours after defeating Switzerland in their Olympic opener, the Americans won again on Thursday, beating Norway 6-1. It was a good tuneup for what promises to be a much tougher game on Sunday, when Team USA will face off against a Canadian team that is favored to win a gold medal on its home ice in Vancouver. The winner of that game will likely get an automatic berth in next week's quarterfinal round.
|Rangers captain Chris Drury joins U.S. teammates in celebrating his first-period goal. Blueshirts alternate captain Ryan Callahan assisted on the Drury goal. |
Rangers captain Chris Drury and alternate captain Ryan Callahan
had a big hand in Thursday's U.S. victory, as Drury scored the eventual game-winner off an assist from Callahan to give the Americans a 2-0 lead at 13:04 of the first period.
Drury and Callahan played alongside each other for much of the game. USA head coach Ron Wilson rotated bodies through his fourth line, but tended to keep the two Rangers together. They were also used together on the penalty kill, just as they are during the NHL season with the Blueshirts, whose head coach, John Tortorella, is also on Team USA as an assistant coach on Wilson's staff.
Drury and Callahan scored their goal -- and played some of their best hockey on a line with David Backes of the St. Louis Blues. Drury, whose ice time increased with his offensive contributions, also played on a line with Backes and Anaheim's Bobby Ryan.
On the afternoon, Drury had one shot -- his goal-- in 10:09 of ice time, an slight increase in his total from the Switzerland game. Callahan registered two shots in 9:11, and in many ways, both players benefited greatly from their familiarity with one another.
Although Norway was not the most imposing of opponents, the Norwegians put up a tough fight, scoring their only goal in a shorthanded situation after the Americans had gone up 3-0 in the second period. The game, however, was essentially decided in the first period when Phil Kessel put the U.S. up 1-0 at the 2:39 mark, and Drury followed with his goal just under 11 minutes later.
The other key to the U.S. victory was the goaltending of Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller, who was very strong for Team USA. Although the Americans outshot the Norwegians 39-11, a few of Miller's 10 saves were as tough as any he makes on a regular basis in the NHL. Miller faced more pressure from odd-man rushes because the U.S. was pushing its attack in the Norway zone. In the second period, the U.S. outshot the Norwegians by only a slim 8-7 margin before returning to form with a 16-2 advantage in shots in the third.
One reason Norway kept the score close into the latter stages of the game was the goaltending of Pal Grotnes, who made several tough saves and w
Kessel got the ball rolling for Team USA when he took a Joe Pavelski pass just inside the Norway blue line, skated down the slot and fired high over Grotnes into the top left corner of the Norwegian net for his first Olympic goal at 2:39 of the first period. Ryan Malone picked up the second assist on the goal.
Drury is competing in his third Olympics at Vancouver, but it wasn't until Thursday that he scored his first Olympic goal, and it stood up as the game-winner. The goal capped off a great shift by the line of Drury, Callahan and Backes.
|Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan picked up his first point as an Olympian by assisting on U.S. and Blueshirts teammate Chris Drury's first goal. |
Backes started the scoring play when he chased down a puck at the right point and sent a pass to Callahan in the slot. Callahan fired a shot that Grotnes stopped, but Drury was coming right to the net and put home the rebound. Callahan and Backes picked up the assists. For Callahan, it marked his first Olympic point.
Drury scored on his only shot in 2:53 of first-period ice time. Callahan's shot, which ended up being an assist on Drury's goal, was his only shot in 2:29 of ice time. Team USA outshot the Norwegians 15-2 in the opening period.
The two Rangers teamed up to help kill the first U.s. penalty, a high-sticking call against Backes at 2:29 of the second period. Paired together as they are during Rangers games, the duo did not allow a Norwegian shot on goal during the shorthanded situation.
Shortly after the penalty kill, Patrick Kane gave the U.S. a 3-0 lead when he scored off the rebound of Zach Parise's hard blast from the left circle. Kane's goal, at 5:52 of the second, was his first in the Olympics, making him the third straight American -- after Kessel and Drury -- to notch his first Olympic goal in the game.
Norway finally broke through during a shorthanded situation at 8:37 of the second period, when Marius Holtet picked up the puck in his own zone and flew end-to-end down the right side before launching a shot past Miller to make it 3-1.
In the second period, Drury had 4:01 of ice time and was at 6:54 through 40 minutes. Callahan saw 3:24 of ice tme in the second and was at 5:53 through two periods.
Callahan and Drury were called on to kill another power play early in the third period, when U.S. defenseman Jack Johnson was called for tripping at 2:08. Callahan got a shorthanded scoring opportunity when he and Drury broke out from their own zone, but Grotnes made the stop on Callahan's long shot from the left wing side.
Ryan Malone iced the victory with a goal at 14:19 of the third , as he scored off the rebound of a shot by Jack Johnson, who had came in down the right side after collecting a long outlet pass from goaltender Miller.
Brian Rafalski stretched the lead to 5-1 with exactly three minutes left in the third, scoring from the slot after taking a pass from Zach Parise, who made a standout play to get the puck to Rafalski from behind the Norway net. Rafalski tallied again after the U.S. won a faceoff in the Norway zone at 19:23.
Canada goes into Sunday's showdown with Team USA having squeaked past Switzerland 3-2 in an overtime shootout on Thursday. The Canadians got the shootout-deciding goal from Sidney Crosby, but by going to overtime, they claimed only two of three potential points in the Group A standings. As a result, Team USA now sits alone atop the group with six points.
Andres Ambuhl, a Rangers prospect who plays for the Hartford Wolf Pack, played for Switzerland in the shootout loss to Canada. Ambuhl, who was on the ice for a tying goal late in the second period, was plus-1 with no shots on goal in 18:17 of ice time.