It might have been a little lower profile, but Saturday’s game between the U.S. and Canada was nothing but wall-to-wall thrills. Back and forth the entire game, a late goal to tie it and an overtime game-winning goal was about as good as you can ask for. Team USA came out on top, 5-4, in extra time thanks to a wrist shot off the stick of U.S. captain Jack Johnson.
Johnson was outstanding throughout the game, also scoring a power-play goal in the second period with Team USA trailing 2-1. More on him in a bit.
Despite Canada’s extreme depth, the U.S. was able to match its North American rival stride for stride, and even did better than that. Team USA controlled play for a lot of the game, with Canada’s immense skill up front making up the difference.
Coming up after the jump, more analysis from Team USA’s 5-4 OT win over Canada and Team USA’s player of the game and links.
Through two periods, the U.S. was borderline dominant, out-shooting the Canadians 32-19.
As the tables turned a bit in the third period, with Canada providing the most pressure, the U.S. was opportunistic enough to capitalize on the few chances it got in the final frame. Both of Team USA’s third-period goals, which at least momentarily gave the team a lead, came from the unlikeliest of places. Team USA’s fourth line of Patrick Dwyer, Joey Crabb and Nate Thompson accounted for both third-period goals for the U.S. with Dwyer and Thompson getting on the board.
Despite playing sparingly in the opener against France, the fourth line earned ice time by creating chances almost every time out. This line forechecks hard and has enough speed to give defensemen some trouble. By getting to the net and taking advantage of the chances they got, the fourth line was a surprise. Each player registered at least one point, with Dwyer collecting a goal and an assist.
With contributions from the depth players, the U.S. put itself in a really good position for the win.
Though Team USA lost leads on three different occasions, it never seemed like they were getting out-worked or out-played.
Despite the scoreline, the goaltending was solid for both sides, with Cam Ward making 41 stops for Canada, while Jimmy Howard made 30. It was a highly offensive game with 80 total shots taken. Both goalies made some key stops down the stretch.
It has become clear that the U.S. is not having any problems scoring goals with 12 in its first two games. That was somewhat a concern going in, knowing that there was good scorers in the first two lines, but significantly fewer proven guys in the bottom-six. It’s been a non-issue so far, even against an elite goaltender like Cam Ward.
Team USA’s defense was definitely better in the game against Canada, overall. There were a few costly mistakes here and there, with a few bad pinches and a few bad reads, but that’s going to happen on the bigger ice. For the most part, the U.S. blue line did what it had to defensively, while making some significant contributions offensively by providing support in transition and getting pucks to the net.
All-in-all the U.S. should be thrilled with its performance against a much deeper and much more skilled team. It was just the fourth time in 42 all-time meetings Team USA had defeated Canada at the Men’s World Championship and first since 2001. Not too shabby.
Most importantly, the U.S. improved to 1-1-0-0 (W-OTW-OTL-L) and sits atop the Helsinki Group with five points through the first two days of the tournament.
Team USA’s Player of the Game
To you, the members of the jury, I present Exhibit A:
Don’t miss the Statue of Liberty fan around the 1:17 mark of the video. Oh, say can you see? Indeed.
In addition to the OT winner, Johnson scored on a well-placed one-time snapshot to make it 2-2 in the second period. Though he finished with a minus-1 on the day, he was pretty solid defensively and saw more ice time than anyone else in the game (25:44).
Head coach Scott Gordon has a lot of faith in Johnson in any situation. The captain has been dominant on the power play and leads Team USA with three goals so far. He’s in his fifth World Championship, and he’s only 25 years old.
With Johnson in a featured role for this team, he is thriving. He likes the spotlight and he’s showing what he can do when in it.
Note: Jim Slater was named Team USA’s Player of the Game, officially, but I’m not basing my picks off of who actually got the award at the tournament.
The official IIHF game sheet from Saturday’s game.
Through two games, Max Pacioretty is Team USA’s leader with four points (1g-3a). Three other players have three points. Only two U.S. skaters have been held off the score sheet so far. Here’s a look at Team USA’s stats.
Also, through the first two days of the tournament, Pacioretty’s four points lead the World Championship, while Johnson’s three goals represent the tournament best in that category. Here are the overall World Championship scoring leaders through two.
Aaron Portzline caught up with Johnson after the big win.
Johnson has been putting in a superhero-like performance at the Worlds and he’s Team USA’s captain, so it was only a matter of time before this happened. (via @RedditCBJ)
Team USA will meet Slovakia Monday at 1:15 p.m. EDT. The game will air live on NBC Sports Network. Expect a full preview Monday morning on United States of Hockey.
And finally, courtesy of the great C.J. Fogler…. life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness… in GIF form.