2011iihfworldchamplogo

Team USA struggles in final qualifying game, loses to Switzerland 5-3

Team USA’s efforts to improve their position for the elimination round of the 2011 IIHF World Championships fell by the wayside today as an energized and intense Team Switzerland came out and stifled the Americans on their way to a 5-3 win in the final game of the qualifying round.

Team USA got some reinforcements today in the form of Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk and he made his presence felt in the game scoring a goal in the third period, but his efforts alone weren’t enough to lead the Americans to victory. University of Wisconsin product and Nashville Predators prospect scored as did Senators forward Ryan Shannon to provide the offense for Team USA, but their issues were in goal today.

Ty Conklin got the start but made just 12 saves in 31 minutes played as he allowed four goals. Al Montoya replaced him and closed the door stopping all 12 shots he saw as it would be just an empty net goal that would provide the rest of the Swiss offense. Switzerland was led by Kevin Lotscher who scored twice, his second of the game providing the difference maker and giving them a 4-2 lead at the time.

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Team USA is now set for the elimination round of the tournament and they’ll have a date with Jaromir Jagr’s Czech Republic team. With host Slovakia out of the tournament, expect that the crowd will be very much pro-Czech as visitors from the neighboring country will pack out the arena.

The Czech Republic locked up the top spot in their group while Team USA finishes fourth in theirs. Getting the chance to face off against Jagr’s team with Ondrej Pavelec in net will provide this very young American team quite the challenge if they want to earn a medal in this year’s tournament. Pavelec has been lights out all tournament going 5-0 with a 1.40 goals against average and a .945 save percentage. The Czechs are teeming over with talent, however, as they’re rolling with Patrik Elias, Martin Havlat, and Tomas Plekanec. The deck is certainly stacked up against Team USA but this tournament is always ripe for surprises.

Here are the highlights from today’s game.

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Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.