Team GB kept the scores level in the first period and even had some presentable chances to take the lead.
Ultimately, though, USA’s pressure told. After Ben Meyers broke the deadlock in the 29th minute, a tiring British defence made all-too-frequent visits to the penalty box. Two power-play goals from Kieffer Bellows early in the third put the game out of reach.
"It felt good," said the two-goal man. "Being a shooter, I want to play my part. Everyone's got a role, whether it's scoring, making plays, playing good defence.
"I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win."
For GB, though, there was a sense of 'what might have been' after a brave performance eroded some of the gap between teams ranked fourth and 18th in the world.
"We played pretty good for the most part but we took too many penalties," said defenceman Josh Tetlow. "You can't give a team like that multiple power plays, so we're disappointed really."
GB also made some changes after its 0-6 loss against Sweden in the previous game. Luke Ferrara dressed for the first time in Tampere, taking the 13th forward role, while defender Sam Jones got his first game time of this tournament, also on the fourth line. Josh Batch and Sam Duggan made way. Jackson Whistle got his first start in goal, having replaced Ben Bowns after the first period of the Sweden game.
In that previous game, the Brits were blown away in the opening exchanges, allowing a goal after 13 seconds and trailing 0-5 at the first intermission. Today, Pete Russell’s team showed far more steel and had its share of chances in the first period.
Brett Perlini tested Swayman on the game’s first power play, Ben O’Connor saw a blast steered narrowly wide and late in the session Mark Richardson’s point shot was tipped narrowly wide by Josh Waller as GB looked to capitalize on four PPs in the opening stanza. However, there were too many occasions when promising positions came to nothing due to poor decision making in the USA zone.
"It came down to a game of power plays," said British defenceman Ben O'Connor. "They converted and we didn't. We have to look at the video and see where we can amend that.
"That was our chance early in the game to get a couple of goals and really get a foothold in the game."
At the other end, Whistle had a solid game to keep the scoreboard blank at the first intermission. Vinni Lettieri was the chief threat for the Americans, dancing his way to the near post midway through the frame, then almost stealing a short-handed goal just before the hooter. Thomas Bordeleau also tested Whistle, forcing a double save from the Belfast Giants goalie.
"The guys in front of me did an awesome job," Whistle said of Britain's display. "We kept it close for as long as we could into the third period, and that’s a testament to the guys battling and working hard."
In front of Whistle, experienced blue liner Mark Richardson added: "We gave a great effort and it says something that we're disappointed to lose 3-0 to the USA. There are a lot of positives we can build on and take into our next three games."
Despite promising signs for Britain, there was evidence late in the first period that the USA was tightening the screws and in the second frame the favourite got on top. For long spells, GB was unable to get out of its zone and the pressure inevitably led to the opening goal.
It came midway through the middle stanza when Andrew Peeke’s point shot was redirected beyond Whistle by Meyers. That’s a first World Championship goal for the 23-year-old, who spent the bulk of the season with University of Minnesota before getting his first taste of NHL with Colorado late in the campaign.
With Britain’s fierce resistance punctured by that marker, the Americans almost added another right away. Bellows fired in a dangerous shot that Whistle padded away and it took a big intervention from Dallas Ehrhardt to deny Adam Gaudette a simple finish from the rebound. On that play, Scott Conway was called for high sticks, giving the USA its first power play of the afternoon.
Britain survived that scare but struggled to find a way back into the game. The USA outshot the opposition 11-3 in the second period without extending its lead.
However, it took less than a minute of the third period for Bellows to make it 2-0 on the power play. Nate Schmidt fired a shot narrowly wide and Farrell brought the puck out from behind the net for Bellows to squeeze his effort past Whistle from a tight angle.
And it wasn’t long before another power play chance saw Bellows, a first round draft pick for the Islanders back in 2016, pot his second of the game, advancing unchallenged to the right-hand dot before putting a wrister on the top shelf.
"We’ve still got some stuff to work on but I think it’s coming along," Bellows said of the power play. "We’re moving the puck well, we’re shooting more and something we want to do is get pucks on net on the power play."
GB's scourge on the ice, Bellows also had encouraging words for the Brits after the game. "It’s fun to play against them," he said. "Great Britain has a great team, their goaltending was fantastic. You hear their passionate fans cheering them on all game. I think that’s awesome for the sport. I love to see that."
Those two quick goals put an end to the contest, with the USA content to hold its advantage and concentrate on securing a shut-out for debutant goalie Swayman. The 23-year-old Alaskan achieved that, stopping 17 shots after jetting into Finland at the end of the Bruins' play-off campaign.
Swayman had a long journey to get here: an overnight flight to Helsinki via Amsterdam, then a shuttle for the 200km connection to Tampere. But he's happy to be with his new colleagues on the national team. "I like them a lot," he said. "They've welcomed me with open arms right away. It's been really fun getting to know these guys and I'm excited about moving forward."