BERNE – After a slow start, the USA scored four third-period goals to beat Austria 6-1 in front of 3,779 fans at PostFinance Arena on Monday. The Austrians, now winless in two games, must defeat Latvia on Wednesday to avoid the Relegation Round.
Captain Dustin Brown led the way with a goal and two assists, and Patrick O'Sullivan and Jason Blake added a goal and an assist apiece. Drew Stafford, Lee Stempniak and Matt Niskanen also scored for the USA, which faces off against Sweden in the Group C finale on Wednesday.
Markus Peintner had the lone goal for Austria, which trailed the USA 2-1 heading into the final period. The Americans outshot Austria 38-26.
"We could have put the game away fairly early had we scored on one of our wide open chances," said American head coach Ron Wilson. "We were a little casual in the first half of the game. I challenged the team to show that we have a killer instinct and to not let Austria think that they had a chance to win the game."
The duo of Buffalo Sabres star Thomas Vanek and Red Bull Salzburg forward Thomas Koch generated some quality scoring chances for Austria. But Vanek, a two-time NHL 40-goal man, was held pointless for the second straight game.
The teams played surprisingly evenly in the first 10 minutes, and Kyle Okposo missed a wide-open net during the USA's first power play. With 4:49 left in the first period, Brown opened the scoring for the Americans, deking his way off the wall to the slot and knifing a backhand past Austrian goalie Jürgen Penker.
The USA went up 2-0 at 11:04 of the second when Stafford went to the net and tucked in a loose puck to finish off a rush with Nick Foligno, seconds after the Austrians had tested USA netminder Robert Esche with a rush of their own.
Austria cut the deficit to 2-1 at 14:26 thanks to a gaffe by Esche. The goalie came out of his net to clear the puck off the sideboards, but gave it away to Peinter, who shot it in from inside the blueline. The cheers from the drum-beating Austrian fans were as long and bold as Peinter's beard.
That goal injected new life into what had been a tepid period. The Austrians charged into the American end with renewed enthusiasm, and their opponents came right back at them, Colin Wilson hammering a slapper off the goal post. Austria outshot the Americans 12-7 in the middle frame.
"The second period was our best," said Austrian coach Lars Bergström. "We stuck to our game plan, and managed to tie the period."
But the hopes of the red-and-white squad would be short-lived. Just 25 seconds into the third period, the USA restored its two-goal lead, as O'Sullivan went to the net and tipped in Brown's shot from the high slot.
The Austrians then surrendered three straight power play goals. With 12:04 left, Blake batted in a puck at the side of the net during an two-man USA advantage to make it 4-1. Stempniak and Niskanen completed the power play carnage, both employing one-timers from the left faceoff circle.
"Our power play was good, which it wasn’t against Germany," said Brown. "That can be a difference-maker in the game against Sweden and other better nations."
For the USA, the Player of the Game was Brown. Andreas Kristler was chosen for Austria.
The last IIHF World Championship meeting between these two nations was a 6-2 American win in Moscow 2007, where Austria wound up getting relegated.