By Josh Ferguson
Team USA claimed Group A supremacy from the Canadians and collect a bye to the quarterfinals with a 5-3 victory at Canada Hockey Place on Sunday night.
Perhaps with a hint of foreshadowing, the Americans opted to wear their third jerseys – retro togs from their 1960 gold medal winning team in Squaw Valley – for the cross-border battle.
They certainly looked like a team who was primed to make a run for gold by scoring just 41 seconds into the opening frame. Brian Rafalski let a low slap shot go from the point that was deflected up and over Martin Brodeur’s shoulder by the stick of teammate Sidney Crosby.
Eric Staal made a pretty deflection on a high shot from Brent Seabrook by knocking it down and through the wickets of American goalie Ryan Miller to tie the game up 8:53 into the first.
Team USA would take the lead right back just 22 seconds after the Staal marker by flipping an innocent dump into Canada’s end. With the puck sailing towards Brodeur, he pulled out the Louisville Slugger and connected with a baseball swing that sent the puck right back to the blueline. There were no red shirts around to pick up Brodeur’s line drive, though, and Rafalski held the line before firing a slap shot to make it 2-1.
Dany Heatley tied the game up again by finishing off some blue-collar work by Jonathan Toews below the icing line, but 33-year-old Chris Drury would capitalize on another display of poor puckhandling by Brodeur that left him out of position enough for the American veteran to give his team their third and final lead of the game.
With Corey Perry serving Canada’s third minor penalty in a row, American captain Jamie Langenbrunner added some third-period insurance on another Rafalski blast that hit the American’s captain’s skate before sliding into the Canadian goal to make it 4-2.
Crosby found the back of the net late in the third to make it a one-goal game, but Ryan Kesler would score into an empty net to solidify a convincing 5-3 win.
Ryan Miller is quickly turning into the story of the tournament for the Americans by continuing to play like the Vezina Trophy front-runner. The East Lansing, Mich., native made 42 saves on 45 shots for the Americans in another solid performance.
With the win, Team USA (3-0-0-0) completes a perfect preliminary round that saw them outscore their opponents 14-5 in three games.
Canada (1-1-1-0) will have a long road to the medal round with the loss and will battle Germany in qualification play on Tuesday. The winner of that match up will face Russia in the quarterfinals.
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