HELSINKI – The teams' records in the tournament were mirror images of each other. The U.S. had won its two games in the tournament, Slovakia had lost both its games. Today, Slovakia came out on top, beating the U.S. 4-2.
"I think we had enough chances yesterday, but it wasn't meant to be. Tonight, we finally got some luck and scored some goals the hard way," said Slovakia's Miroslav Satan who got the empty netter tonight.
"It was three points we should have had. We throw away the first period, even though we dominated the game in many areas. Their goalie was phenomenal, and their defence played a good game. Hopefully this was a wakeup call for us, for the rest of the tournament," said Team USA forward Bobby Ryan.
Andrej Sekera got the game-winning goal and Jan Laco made 18 saves in Slovakia's goal. Jimmy Howard made 28 saves for the U.S.
Slovakia hadn’t beat the U.S. since 2000, and the teams hadn’t played against each other since the World Championship in 2007.
Today, Slovakia had come to play, and they proved in the first minute when Libor Hudacek, the team’s smallest player, got the puck as soon as he had stepped onto the ice, and he drove all the way to the net. Jimmy Howard made the initial stop, but lost sight of the puck and Dominik Granak pushed the puck over the goal line when just 47 seconds had been played.
"You can't give them turnovers at the blue line. They have too many good players who can handle the puck. You have to be patient, chip pucks, and go chase them. We didn't start doing that until later in the game," Max Pacioretty said.
Slovakia took a two-goal lead at 15:04 when Branco Radivojevic took Tomas Kopecky’s pass in Slovakia’s zone and finished his end-to-end rush with a wristshot that beat Howard high on the glove side.
The U.S. struck back just 37 seconds later when Justin Faulk’s slapshot from the blueline found its way through Jan Laco’s five-hole. Kyle Okposo and Jim Slated were credited with the assists.
Slovakia played all the way to the end, and with just six seconds remaining in the period, they scored again. Howard made two great saves, but couldn’t make a third one and stop Andrej Sekera’s slapshot that gave Slovakia a two-goal lead.
"Marcel Hascak made a nice play to Mario Bliznak who shot the puck. The goalie stopped it but the puck came straight to me and I just tried to shoot it, and it went in," Sekera said.
"We knew we can win games here. We played a little simpler game than before, got pucks to the net, and played a good defensive game for a full 60 minutes," he said.
The Americans created several good chances, especially when Slovakia got into penalty trouble in the middle frame, and the U.S. had a two-man power play.
Bobby Ryan set Cam Fowler up for a slap shot, but it missed the net. Max Pacioretty was quick to grab the puck, and he sent it to the front of the net where Paul Stastny was waiting to make it 3-2 from Laco’s doorstep.
Team USA battled hard in the third period, killing even Cam Atkinson’s double high sticking minor, but couldn't tie the game, and Miroslav Satan sealed the final score with an empty-netter with 39 seconds remaining in the game.
"I thought we played pretty well in the third period. It was just too late," said Pacioretty.
"We're happy with the three points and hopefully they'll mean something by the end of the preliminary round," said Satan.