Friday, February 21, 2014

Double disappointment: Canada beats USA once more

Sochi,  Russia -- Jamie Benn supplied the lone goal of the contest  at 1:41  of the second period,  and Canada earned the right to defend its gold medal thanks to a 1-0 decision over Team USA in Friday's semifinal of the Sochi Olympics.

Carey  Price  turned aside all  31 shots he faced  for the Canadians, who will take  on Sweden  in Sunday's title contest. The Swedes advanced earlier Friday with a 2-1 victory over Finland.

"A lot of people expect us to be there, and expect us to just show up in the final and have a chance to play for the gold medal," said Canadian forward and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. "But we knew it was going to be a lot of work, a lot of effort and a lot of adversity to get there."

Canada,  which topped  the U.S. in a memorable overtime contest four years ago in Vancouver to claim gold, reached the Olympic final for the fifth time since 1992.

Jonathan Quick made 36 saves for the Americans, who must regroup quickly for a matchup with the Finns in Saturday's bronze medal tilt.

The  United States,  which has a checkered history on the international stage, suffered  its  first  shutout  loss  in the  Olympics  since  falling  5-0  to Czechoslovakia on Feb. 8, 1976.

"We're coming home with a bronze medal. After we put this loss behind us we'll be back to do that," said a defiant USA head coach Dan Bylsma following the game. That would be a tough thing to accomplish, as America hasn't collected a third-place medal since 1936 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Quick,   the  LA  Kings'  starting  goaltender,  was  beaten  only  once.  Jay Bouwmeester  unleashed  a low, hard  shot from  the left point which skittered into the slot and was redirected home by Benn for the winning margin.

Canada  improved to 4-1 in Olympic action against its southern neighbors since NHL players began competing in 1998.

USA  defenseman John Carlson released the first quality chance for either side at  the six-minute  mark of the scoreless opening period, but Price stayed put in  his  crease to glove down  the rising shot  with traffic sliding in to his right.

Quick  was sharp  with 16 saves in  the game's initial 20 minutes, while Price was  good  on 11 shots.  Both nations  misfired on their respective power-play chances.

Following Benn's marker, the Americans failed to convert two subsequent power- play opportunities, and couldn't dent Price on 11 more shots during the middle frame.  Quick was  equal to the other 11  pucks he faced to keep it a one-goal margin.

Canada  couldn't expand its  edge on a hooking call to Phil Kessel just before the  midway point  of the  third period,  but its  defense did  an expert  job keeping its foes away from the middle of the ice.

Chris  Kunitz  had a golden opportunity  to expand the Canadians' lead when he was  left alone in  front of Quick, but pushed his rebound try wide of the far side with 5 1/2 minutes to play.

Due  to Canadian forechecking pressure, Quick wasn't summoned to the bench for an  extra attacker  until  less  than a  minute  remained,  and the  Americans couldn't reward his effort with an equalizer.

On Thursday, Canada's women snagged its fourth straight Gold with a thrilling comeback 3-2 overtime victory against America's top females. 

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