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Johnson leads USA to first win

Americans leave nothing to chance, beat Austria 5-3

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Austria couldn't find a way to stop the US. Photo: Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Image

HELSINKI – Austria started well, but after 60 minutes of play it was the American team who still came out on top, and won the game 5-3.

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“We came up to a slow start, and we knew they'd be coming out hard. They've been together for a long time and we got together a couple of days ago,” said U.S. forward Tim Stapleton.

"We played pretty balanced but had a couple of breakdowns in the second period, and they scored on them. We fixed that in the third, but couldn't get pucks on the net. It's a pity, because I thought we had a lot of chances. Unfortunately, an OK game is not enough at this level,” Austria’s defenceman Gerhard Unterluggauer said.

Erik Johnson scored two goals, Ben Bishop made 20 saves for the U.S. Drew LeBlanc and Justin Faulk also collected two points.

Bruce Springsteen put on a show in Stockholm yesterday, but today it was Team USA that got the crowd clapping their hands to the tunes of “Born in the USA”. The song was played five times – after every American goal.

But it was Austria that took control of the game early on when they scored two quick goals within 40 seconds early in the first period.

First it was Manuel Latusa who beat Ben Bishop with a slapshot from the slot at 4:58, after Thomas Hundertpfund had intercepted an American pass in their zone, and then in the shift that followed Matthias Iberer carrierd the puck into the U.S. zone, took a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle, Bishop made the initial save but the rebound landed right at Daniel Welser’s feet and he one-timed the puck top shelf.

"They deserved the lead. The biggest thing for us is the size of the rink. We know we have to hold on to the puck more and that we have more time than we think. And that showed in the second period,” said Stapleton.

There’s an old story going around in the hockey circles, about a coach telling his players not to score the go-ahead goal just yet. “Let’s do it in the end when the other team doesn’t have any time to tie the game,” goes the punchline.

True or not, the Americans used the 54 minutes they had to tie the game and then win it.

Halfway through the period, the U.S. got their chance on powerplay. Justin Faulk, who quarterbacked the play from the point, passed the puck to team captain Paul Stastny, who sent it right back to Faulk who took a slap shot. Bernhard Starkbaum made a save, but the puck was loose in front of his pads and David Moss slammed it in to make it a one-goal game.

In the second period, the U.S. stepped on the gas. Erik Johnson tied the game with a slap shot that went right through Starkbaum.

"I got a lot of wood on it, it was a hard shot through the five-hole," said Johnson.

Then Tim Stapleton – playing in his old home rink – onetimed a rebound that Starkbaum gave up having first stopped Drew LeBlanc’s shot. 

“It was a great play by the line, I was just in the right spot at the right time,” Stapleton said.

A minute and 26 seconds later, Danny Kristo carried the puck into the Austrian zone, and then sent a pass across the slot area, where Aaron Palushaj was waiting to one-time it in. His shot went in off the post.

Austria took a timeout after the goal, and it seemed to energize the team. Two minutes after the American 4-2 goal, the US turned the puck over in the neutral zone and David Schuller got on a breakaway, and he somehow sneaked the puck in through Bishop’s five-hole.

Whatever momentum Austria had then, was gone by the end of the period, thanks to Erik Johnson’s second goal of the game – and the American’s second power play goal of the game – to make it 5-3 with 1:28 remaining in the second period. LeBlanc also got his second point of the game.

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