Patrick Kane said he had another level to his game. He showed it on Friday to lead the underdog U.S. Team into the gold-medal game with a dominating 6-0 effort over a shell-shocked Finnish team.
The U.S. burst out of the gates, scoring just two minutes into the game as a great hustle play by Phil Kessel forced Finland goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff into a bad clearing pass that Ryan Malone deposited into the empty net.
Using its team speed, the young U.S. legs kept the pressure on, forcing turnovers and never letting the Finns mount anything close to an offensive attack against Ryan Miller, who turned aside 18 shots to lower his tournament leading goals-against average to 1.04.
A pair of power-play goals by Zach Parise and Erik Johnson, and the first of two Kane tallies sent Kiprusoff to the showers at the 10-minute mark of the first period.
The U.S. greeted backup Finnish goaltender Niklas Backstrom by scoring on two of the first shots he faced as Kane added his second of the game, and Paul Stastny notched his first goal of the tournament.
“We got a lucky one to start and it went from there,” Stastny said. “To be up 4-0 with 50 minutes left in the game, I don’t think we could’ve asked for anything better.”
Even with a big lead the U.S. kept coming wave after wave, pressuring the Finnish defense with an aggressive forecheck. They were physical, they were flying, but most of all they were tenacious, never stepping off the gas against a team loaded with potent offensive weapons.
“Everyone chipped in and that’s when we’re at our best when we’re rolling all four lines,” Stastny said.
“The Finns have a lot of dangerous players so you try to keep it simple and just chip it in and charge after it and go from there. Whether we have 5-foot-10 guys or 6-foot-4 guys we all want the puck and we’re all going to forecheck really hard.”
As relentless as they were on the forecheck, the American coverage in the defensive zone was close to flawless. Defensemen kept their sticks in passing lanes and forwards dropped back to lend support. The end result was four shots on Miller in the opening frame.
“Not enough is being said about the guys in front of me,” said Miller, who was replaced by Tim Thomas midway through the third period. “We had a real team effort today.”
Finland got on the board at the 14:46 mark with a power-play goal Antti Miettinen that glanced off the arm of Jack Johnson and snuck past Thomas.
The U.S. awaits the winner of the Canada vs. Slovakia game, which was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. local time. If Canada continues the roll its been on since losing to the Americans, 5-3, on Sunday, it would be a rematch of the gold-medal game from the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, which the Canadians won, 5-2.
“Obviously it [the gold-medal game] gives us an opportunity to do something we didn’t do that last time,” said Brian Rafalski, who along with Chris Drury are the only remaining holdovers from that U.S. Team.
Harry Thompson is the editor of USA Hockey Magazine and will be covering the Olympic hockey tournaments for www.USAHockey.com. You can also check out his Olympic blog and Twitter posts at www.USAHockeyMagazine.com.
Tag(s): 2010 - Vancouver, BC