In the opening game of Qualification Round play at the 2011 IIHF World Championship, the U.S. had to weather a Canadian storm for 60+ minutes. The old rivalry seemed to heat up fast as Canada’s Marc Methot laid a thunderous check on USA’s Kevin Shattenkirk along the glass just under a minute into the game. Shattenkirk stayed down on the ice for a moment, most likely trying to get his bearings back, but he did stay in the game.
The opening frame was fast paced with chances being traded on both ends of the rink, however, Canada seemed to carry the play for longer stretches. This was a repetitive theme throughout the day as the Canadians out shot the Americans 52 to 20 in the game. However, the first period ended scoreless which was a blessing for USA.
The Red, White and Blue got a break 4:13 into the second period, when Mike Komisarek fired a dipping shot from the right point that sank down and past Reimer to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. The Americans seemed to enjoy playing with fire in this game because they gave the Canadians numerous chances on the man advantage. This was also due to Canada’s highly skilled forwards giving the U.S. D-corps the fits in many instances. Just as the third Canadian power play of the game was ending, Brent Burns tied up the score at one. After the two teams traded power play opportunities, Jack Johnson came out of the box and received a great headman pass from Blake Wheeler to send Johnson in free on a breakaway. Johnson broke in just to left of center and beat Reimer on a forehand backhand move that slipped in through the five-hole.
The Americans took a 2-1 lead over Canada into the third period, even though the ice seemed to be tilted in Canada’s favor. The American’s were being severely outshot and even caught a few breaks with pucks finding the post instead of the back of the net. U.S. goaltender Ty Conklin (48 saves) shined in his first game of the tournament and he was one of the few reasons why the Americans had a shot at winning this game. With the Americans carrying a lead, Chris Porter took an early penalty and gave Canada a chance to tie it up. Once again, the U.S. team was able to kill of the penalty, but the momentum gained from the man advantage turned into a goal just as the penalty ended. With the game knotted up at two in the third period, the Americans put themselves in a tough spot again, this time giving the highly skilled Canadians a 4 on 3 power play. Conklin couldn’t bail the team out this time as Jason Spezza buried a perfectly placed slap-shot top shelf to give Canada the lead for the first time in the game.
I give the American’s credit, because they weren’t going to go out of this game without a fight. They were continually outshot and sometimes out played, but they stuck to their game and with about ten minutes left in the 3rd got a chance to even things up. With Canada whistled for a slashing penalty, the U.S. went back to the power play. Two of the American’s best players in the tournament, Derek Stepan and Blake Wheeler, executed a perfect string of give-and-go’s along the right wall that ended with Stepan snapping one home just to the right of the net to tie the game back up in the third. The U.S. was able to withstand a few more spectacular chances with the help of Conklin once again and the rest of the third period ticked away.
Overtime seemed to follow the same script, with Canada getting the majority of the chances. Following the scoreless five-minute four-on-four overtime, the game then went on to a shootout. Johnson and Wheeler could not get the puck past the young Reimer, while Jordan Eberle and Rick Nash each scored on Conklin to give Canada the 4-3 victory. The Americans picked up an important point in the standings and now owns a record of 2-0-1-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L). The U.S. take on ex-NHL goaltender Christobal Huet and France in their next game on Saturday, May 7th.
Additional Notes: U.S. Player of the Game went to Ty Conklin, which was well deserved. USA was 1 for 3 on the power play, while Canada was 1 for 6 (however, they did score twice seconds after a PP ended).