USA Hockey

U.S., Canada set up Four Nations Cup final showdown

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — The United States has earned yet another game against Canada, and the Americans really like how they’re playing right now.

Kacey Bellamy scored on a power-play at 4:23 of the first period and the United States beat Sweden 5-0 on Friday night to reach the championship of the Four Nations Cup.

The Americans will play Canada on Sunday looking for their eighth overall title in this tournament and third straight. So far this fall, the United States has won two of the first three games against its biggest rivals in women’s hockey, including a 4-2 win Wednesday night in the round-robin portion of this event.

“We know who they are and they know who we are, and it’s very likely another real good hockey game,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said about playing Canada for the fourth time as part of their pre-Olympic exhibition tour.

The U.S. squad has won three games in four nights scoring 17 goals and allowing only four.

“Obviously, it’s always great to win a game and win three in a row is the ultimate goal, but I’m just happy with the way we’re playing,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said. “I think all the games have been different, a lot of special teams. We’ve done a great job managing our energy, managing our intensity, the way that we want to play. Sticking to dictating the game on our end and just happy with where we’re at right now.”

Kendall Coyne scored two goals in the second. Hannah Brandt had a goal and an assist, and Gigi Marvin had a goal.

This was the 18th game between the United States and Sweden in this event, and the Americans remain undefeated with their seventh shutout in the last nine games between the teams.

They jumped on Sweden’s first penalty when Olivia Carlsson went to the box for high-sticking, needing just 29 seconds to score.

Bellamy skated across the slot in front of the crease and pounced on a rebound of Hilary Knight‘s shot to beat goalie Sara Grahn with a backhander.

Sweden killed off its other two penalties of the period, and goalie Nicole Hensley made a nice stop on a short-handed breakaway attempt by Lisa Johansson at 18:18 of the first. That may have been the biggest of the nine shots Hensley faced.

“It’s critical,” Stauber said. “Anytime a game’s 1-nothing, that’s a game-changing save, and she came up big and had some other real good saves. And that’s not easy on a given night when you only face nine shots on goal. That’s not easy to stay in something like that. So she was mentally focused … She didn’t give any ground.”

Coyne made it 2-0 with her second goal in three games in this tournament 1:35 into the second. Then Coyne made it 3-0 at 4:56, and Brandt scored from the slot midway through the second.

Canada beat Finland 4-0 to advance to the title game. Finland took three of the first four shots, but Brianne Jenner scored on the power play at 13:27 of the 1st for a lead the Canadians never lost.

Canada went 2 of 6 with the advantage while killing all seven penalties. Marie-Philip Poulinhad a goal and an assist, and Meghan Agosta added two assists.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson