International Ice Hockey Federation

USA edges Sweden

USA edges Sweden

Compher snatches winner late on

Published 08.05.2017 23:06 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
USA edges Sweden
COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 8: USA's Johnny Gaudreau #13 celebrates after scoring a first period goal against Sweden during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Despite trailing three times, Team USA kept its cool, survived a Swedish onslaught, and grabbed a gutsy victory after two fine goals from Johnny Gaudreau.

Team USA made it back-to-back wins here in Cologne, edging Sweden 4-3 with a never-say-die performance.

In a game between two of the fancied teams in the group, both nations knew that victory would go a long way towards moving clear of a nerve-shredding battle to make the last eight, and they delivered a topsy-turvy encounter that saw two goals apiece from Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau as the Americans came from behind repeatedly to snatch the win.

J.T. Compher put team USA ahead for the first time in the game with just eight minutes to play. The 22-year-old Colorado prospect, playing in his second World Championship, got the tip on a Connor Murphy shot from the point to defy a prolonged spell of Scandinavian pressure and set his country on the way to an encouraging victory.

Murphy, the American captain, paid tribute to a team effort. "We had a lot of guys step up and play big games today," he said "Those are the games we talked about before, the games that we want to play against the big teams. Those are the ones you feel proud about and those are the ones that help you climb the standings in the tournament."

Sweden, though, will be wondering what more it had to do to win this game. The Tre Kronor led three times without finishing off the Americans. Going into the final stanza locked at 3-3, the Swedes produced a blistering passage of play, aided by two US penalties, but failed to put the puck in the net. So disciplined was Rikard Gronborg’s team that it went 55 minutes without even taking a penalty – only to pay three visits to the box in the dying minutes when panic took hold.

It didn’t take long to get this game warmed up: the teams traded goals inside the first four minutes to set the tone for the evening’s entertainment. Lindholm shot Sweden into the lead from the top of the circle after Anton Stralman deked on a shot and found his team-mate in space. But that advantage lasted less than a minute before Clayton Keller added to Sunday’s hat-trick with his fourth goal of the championship, gobbling up the rebound from a Jack Eichel shot to beat Viktor Fasth.

Lindholm, recovered from the minor knock he sustained during Saturday’s 7-2 romp against Germany, was back on the scoresheet in the 14th minute with a goal that somewhat resembled his opener. This time it was Olive Ekman-Larsson who provided the feed and Lindholm supplied the finish from his preferred location around the face-off dot.

But Lindholm wasn’t the only forward in form in this game. Team USA’s Gaudreau shows every sign of enjoying his return to the World Championship and the 24-year-old’s blistering pace scorched through Sweden to tie the game once again on 18:12 of the first. Gaudreau latched onto Dylan Larkin’s clearance, leaving Jonas Brodin wrong-footed on the US blue line with a shake of the hips as he blazed a streak down the ice. The finish was clinical, going five-hole on Fasth for a fine goal.

Parity lasted a mere 35 seconds, however. Joel Lunqvust wrestled possession of the puck in the corner, Carl Klingberg fed Victor Hedman and the D-man smashed home a one-timer to give Sweden the edge at the first intermission.

The scoring had to slow down after that breathless opening stanza, but nobody warned Gaudreau. His second of the night was another fine play as he carved through the Swedish defence with his linemates Eichel and Anders Lee. Gaudreau started it with an interception in his own zone, then it was tic-tac-toe down the ice until the Calgary Flames man finished off the move and tied the game again.

"I know what it is like playing against Johnny Gaudreau in Calgary," Murphy added. "It is not easy to contain him. When those guys are able to use their skill and use the cutbacks on the big ice it is hard for anyone to defend."

Now, at last, the goalies began to shape events with a big save at each end to keep the scores level through 40 minutes. Jimmy Howard was first to show, getting his blocker behind another Hedman thunderbolt. Then Fasth denied Eichel with a flailing arm towards the top corner as the Americans sought the lead for the first time on the night.

Sweden, looking to force a victory that would have lifted it to seven points from a possible nine, began the third period at high speed. The early stages were played in front of Howard’s net as the USA tried to kill a couple of penalties. Victor Rask spurned a fabulous opportunity, firing past a wide-open net, then Lindholm dragged the puck wide of the target after Hedman found him unmarked on Howard’s doorstep. Those missed opportunities proved so costly for Sweden when Compher snatched the game-winner against the run of play soon after.

"I think we played well enough to win this game. We definitely had our chances," said Sweden's Stralman after the hooter. "Unfortunately we lost our coverage a couple of time in the first period and allowed them to score goals. We weren't always cautious with the puck in dangerous areas."

Sweden is back in action on Thursday against Latvia, the Americans face Italy on Wednesday afternoon.


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