Coming off a confidence-building 5-4 overtime win against Canada, the U.S. Men’s National Team did not get the result it wanted against a scuffling Team Slovakia. With a 4-2 loss Monday, the U.S. fell to 1-1-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) in tournament play and have to regroup after its sloppiest game by far.
As it turns out, a bad first period made all the difference in the world as Slovakia was able to capitalize on mistakes to take a 3-1 lead into the locker room after one. Despite improved play by Team USA down the stretch, including a second-period goal by Paul Stastny, the U.S. never recovered from that bad start.
Coming up after the jump, some more analysis of Team USA’s 4-2 loss to Slovakia, and a look at Team USA’s player of the game.
Team USA’s woes can be traced back to that first period. Things started poorly with Slovakia scoring just 47 seconds into the game and didn’t get much better until later in the second period.
Bad turnovers, bad positioning and overall bad decisions throughout the first half of the opening period allowed Slovakia to take a two-goal lead.
The U.S. answered back with a great point shot from Justin Faulk to get within one, but couldn’t close out the period strongly, as Andrej Sekera made it 3-1 with just six seconds remaining in the first.
The second included a much better effort from Team USA and it got rewarded with a late power-play goal by Paul Stastny after a nice backhanded feed from Max Pacioretty. Stastny has done a really good job of parking himself in front of the net on the power play, proving it on the screen that helped aid Jack Johnson’s OT winner, and again on this goal.
The momentum from that tally somewhat carried over to the third period. It wasn’t enough however, as the U.S. got a bit unlucky hitting the post a few times, while Jan Laco shut the door in net for Slovakia. The U.S. never found a way to get that tying goal and Miroslav Satan capitalized on a turnover to ice the game with an empty-netter.
The U.S. definitely got better as the game wore on, but that rough start was costly. Perhaps its a good wake-up call for a team that had such a terrific start to the tournament. Sometimes going through a game like that propels a team to a more consistent effort going forward. Pretty much every team gets better as the tournament wears on, so these games will keep getting tougher.
Like the rest of his team, Jimmy Howard struggled in the first period, but he was hung out to dry on both of the last two goals. Howard, however, probably would like to have that first goal back. Still, the American netminder allowed his team a chance to make a comeback by shutting down Slovakia in the second and third. He made 28 saves in the contest.
The good news for Team USA is that there’s plenty of time to regroup and rev back up for a pair of games Team USA should be able to win. With Belarus on Thursday and Kazakhstan on Friday, the U.S. could have a chance to clinch a spot in the playoff round.
Team USA’s Player of the Game
Stastny got the second-period goal, but beyond that, he made the first line a threat. Team USA’s line with Pacioretty, Stastny and Bobby Ryan, had several shifts where it was generating quality chances and instances of sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
Additionally, Stastny was tough in the faceoff circle, winnings 66.67 percent of the draws he took. He’s been excellent in that regard all tournament.
It was a strong game for Stastny, who now has four points with a goal and three assists in tournament play. Coming into the event, Stastny had to be one of the top producers for Team USA to have success, and he has been so far.
The official game sheet from the IIHF.
Here is Kevin Allen’s post-game recap for USA Today.
Team USA’s stats through three games: Max Pacioretty leads the squad with five points (1g-4a), while Paul Stastny (1g-3a) and Justin Faulk (1g-3a) each have four. Faulk, Team USA’s youngest player, also leads the team with a plus-4 rating. Jack Johnson is leading all U.S. players with 76:59 on ice so far. He has taken a staggering 84 shifts.
Here’s a look at the tournament scoring leaders through four days. Loui Eriksson leads the Worlds with six points (3-3–6). Pacioretty is tied with Evgeni Malkin (2-3–5) and Patrick Sharp (1-4–5) for second.
The IIHF suspended France’s Sacha Treille for four additional games for a vicious hit to the head of Kazakhstan’s Roman Starchenko. The suspension length is unprecedented in the modern era of the World Championship and sends a strong message to players about the IIHF’s stance on checks to the head and neck area.
Team USA will meet Belarus Thursday at 9:15 a.m. EDT. The game will air live on NBC Sports Network. You can expect a full preview of that important tilt Wednesday evening.