Canada beats US 4-3 will face Finland in final at hockey worlds


Canada beats US 4-3 will face Finland in final at hockey worlds

MOSCOW — Canada blew a lead before making a comeback in fighting past the United States 4-3 on Saturday to set up an ice hockey world championship final with Finland.

Finland rubbed out Russia 3-1 in the other semifinal for a shot at its first championship in five years.

Brendan Gallagher got Canada started with a rebound off Boone Jenner's shot, and the Bruins' Brad Marchand made it 2-0 with a wrist shot from a tight angle following an elegant combination with Cody Ceci.

The U.S. surged in the second period to go ahead with three goals in eight minutes, starting from Auston Matthews with a deflected slapshot.

Former Bruins prospect David Warsofsky tied up the game in unusual circumstances when he hit the puck into the top-left corner, but it bounced out again and play continued, only for the goal to be given on review. Tyler Motte's first goal of the tournament put the U.S. in front 3-2 off a pass from Dylan Larkin, but Derick Brassard hit back for Canada to level ahead of the third.

Ryan Ellis scored the semifinal-winning goal early in the third with a slapshot to the top-right corner.

"They gave us everything we could handle. We knew it was going to be a battle," Canada goaltender Cam Talbot said. "There's no quit in our game."

In Sunday's final, Canada can become the first team to retain the title since Russia in 2009.

Finland beat Canada 4-0 in the preliminary round, although that game took place after both teams had already qualified for the quarterfinals.

Talbot said the final would be a "redemption game" for him after he allowed four goals off 19 shots in the last game against the Finns.

"We turned the puck over a lot," captain Corey Perry said when asked what Canada needed to improve for its second encounter with the Finns. "They sit back, they like to play that trap game, live off turnovers. We clean that area up, we'll do OK."

The U.S. arrived in Russia two weeks ago with a heavy emphasis on youth, featuring six college players, and lost its opening game 5-1 to Canada, but improved throughout the tournament and surprised many by beating the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.

"I thought we were really good tonight," forward Nick Foligno said. "We're a young team and they're a veteran team, an older team, and we played toe to toe with them."

The U.S. will play for a second bronze medal in a row against Russia.

Eighteen-year-old forward Sebastian Aho helped Finland to win with two goals he attributed to "great passes to me," adding he was looking forward to the gold medal game. "I like to win and I hate to lose."

Their win ensured Russia has not made the final at a home world championship since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Sergei Shirokov gave Russia the lead in the first period, scoring on his own rebound following a pass from Dmitry Telegin.

Having been outshot 10-4 in the first, Finland fought back with three second-period goals. Aho, an NHL prospect, tied up the game with a power-play slapshot before Jussi Jokinen scored a wrist shot off a pass across the crease from NHL No. 1 draft pick contender Patrik Laine.

With Russia's Alex Ovechkin off the ice for interference, Aho scored his second power-play goal off assists from Jarno Koskiranta and Mikko Koivu. Finland then shut down the game in the third to secure the win.

There was more bad news for Russia late in the third when Telegin suffered what was reported to be severe bruising to the leg after apparently being struck by Atte Ohtamaa's stick. Telegin crawled across the ice as play continued before he received medical help.

B's make a big statement to Tampa, rest of the NHL with gutsy win

AP Photo

B's make a big statement to Tampa, rest of the NHL with gutsy win

TAMPA – One has to wonder what the Tampa Bay Lightning are thinking after Saturday night’s game. 

It’s probably something along the lines of “Oh crap” after the Bruins completely shut them down while missing their top defensemen pairing, their best all-around player and top line center, their most impactful rookie forward and also losing their best power forward, who was filling in as top line center, in the first period. The undermanned Bruins made a big, fat statement with their 3-0 win over the well-rested, healthy Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena at the end of a long, four-game road trip, and now sit just two points behind the Bolts with 12 games to play in the regular season. 

MORE - Scary incident involving Backes

It was impressive enough that the Black and Gold won at all against the NHL’s best team while missing so many of their top shelf players, but to do it while also totally shutting down Tampa’s offense was something worth remarking about. The Bruins defense and goaltending had been playing a bit fast and loose for the better part of a month, and had been bailed out time and again by an offense that’s been dropping big numbers lately. 

But the Bruins went into Saturday night determined to leave an impression with the Lightning about what awaits them next month once the playoffs start, and they did it with physical, gritty defense that left Tampa with little space to operate. Even better the Bruins defensemen moved the puck pretty much perfectly and swiftly all night, blocked shots with hard-nosed determination and proved they could do more than survive without Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. 

That’s damned impressive when you consider the opponents from Tampa Bay lining up against them with a chance to clinch their playoff spot, and what’s on the line for both teams headed into the final three weeks of the regular season. 

“We were looking at it as more of a bounce-back against a really good team, and let’s see where we are. I thought we answered the bell,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Probably the biggest win in a long time. We've had some nice comebacks and some high-scoring affairs, but it was nice to get a zero [goals allowed] in the column. It’s been a while. 

“It was just good, solid team defense…winning pucks. It was probably not the prettiest hockey, but I thought the goals we scored were pretty nice ones going to the net. It was playoff hockey. I thought we were better at it than they were tonight. Who knows how the next one is going to go, but we’re going to enjoy this.”

It was clear early on that the Bruins wanted to set the tone both physically and style of play-wise, and they did just that. The pounding physicality clearly bothered the Lightning as Steven Stamkos made an uncharacteristic choice to retaliate against Tim Schaller after he threw a heavy hit on the Tampa Bay star player. That landed Stamkos in the box and set the Bruins up for their first of two power play goals on the evening. 

Those two power play goals were proof enough that the Bruins had their special teams in good order, but it took just a combined 23 seconds of power play time to strike for those two scores against the Lightning penalty kill. That’s the kind of thing that’s going to keep Jon Cooper and the Tampa Bay coaching staff up at night before the final two meetings between these two teams. The suffocating defense, the stout physicality and the quick strike offense just completely overwhelmed the Lightning, and things went exactly according to the game plan that Bruce Cassidy had set out for them prior to the game. 

“We’re a confident group back there, and when we play the way we’re supposed to we can compete with anybody,” said Kevan Miller, who played a punishing, physical 21:41 of ice time in the win. “It’s that time of year where we’re pushing for the playoffs, we’re grinding away and we knew as a group after [the Florida loss] we needed to tighten things up. We did that. That’s a tough team over there, so you need to take time and space away from them. As a group we did a great job of that.”

About the only thing that didn’t go right for the Bruins early was David Backes exiting quickly at the end of the first after his right thigh got sliced by an errant skate blade. But even the 33-year-old Backes managed to avoid serious injury despite approximately 18 stitches to close the wound, and was cracking jokes about it as he limped to the Bruins bus postgame.

Clearly things can and will change with two games remaining between the two teams in the final three weeks of the regular season. The Bruins should theoretically be even better and more difficult to beat once they got all of their key players healthy, and that’s got to be a frightening prospect for the Lightning. 

MORE - Talking Points: B's start strong and don't look back vs Tampa

Then again perhaps the Bolts were a little rusty after three days off leading into Saturday night, and they needed to be kicked in the teeth by the Bruins to start getting that hunger back. Either way the Bruins are within a single win of pulling into a tie for the President’s Trophy and home ice throughout the entire Eastern Conference playoff bracket. Nobody should be surprised the Bruins did it once again while fighting through injuries and a brutal late season schedule, and that’s a testament to how stubbornly they’ve successfully plowed through adversity this season. 

The dominant win over Tampa on Saturday night just serves as another piece of compelling hockey evidence that something special is building with the Black and Gold. It’s become impossible to deny or ignore as the Bruins continue bucking the odds in a way that should have everybody else’s full attention around the NHL at this point.


Bruins start strong and don't look back vs Lightning

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruins start strong and don't look back vs Lightning

GOLD STAR: Torey Krug assisted on all three goals and finished off with a couple of strong games while stepping up in the absence of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. Clearly all of the D-men stepped up knowing that their top pairing wasn’t going to be available against the Lightning, but it was Krug at the offensive end with his three assists that put him over 50 points for the second straight season. They were big plays too, whether it was finding David Pastrnak in the slot for the first goal or firing wide of the net on the second score that David Backes pumped into the net. The third goal was once again a PP shot from the outside circle that Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out and was eventually shot past him by Riley Nash. Pair that with a couple of hits and a blocked shot in 19:37 of ice time, and it was a full night for Krug.

BLACK EYE: Nikita Kucherov was not his MVP self in this one. Instead he managed just a single shot on net in his 18:43 of ice time, and missed the net with three other shot attempts in a harmless, invisible kind of game. Kucherov also didn’t really do much of anything else in a game where the Bruins didn’t have defensive stoppers Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron, which has to start making the Lightning wonder how difficult it’s going to be for them when those two players return ahead of the postseason. The Lightning were rested and waiting for the Bruins for a couple of days and should have been at their absolute best. Kucherov was among a number of Bolts players that were far from that, including goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. 

MORE - Scary incident involving Backes

TURNING POINT: The Bruins came out of the starting gate firing and roared past the Lightning with a strong opening period. They outshot Tampa Bay by a 12-5 margin in the opening 20 minutes and didn’t even allow a single scoring chance to the Bolts while playing letter perfect hockey for pretty much the entire time. That led to a David Pastrnak goal little more than three minutes into the game, and then the Bruins doubled their lead with a power play strike midway through the game. Once the Bruins had built up a two-goal lead with the kind of strong defense that they were dealing out on Saturday night, it was going to be awfully difficult to beat them. And Tampa didn’t even come close. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Riley Nash was dropped from the top line to the third line to start the game, and responded with one of his best all-around games of the season. Nash scored on a power play strike from the slot after a big rebound bounced to him there, and that pretty much iced the game in the second period. But he was good all night with a couple of shot attempts, a couple of hits and a couple of takeaways in 18:30 of ice time, and was excellent in the face-off circle while winning 9-of-11 draws in a big performance for the Black and Gold. Nash also stepped back into his usual spots once Backes was lost to injury at the end of the first period, and resumed the kind of solid play that’s allowed him to have his best NHL season in Boston this year. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 15-6-1 – the career record for Tuukka Rask vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning after another shutout win on Saturday night. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’ll play a second period one of these days.” –a smiling David Backes as he limped out of the visitor’s dressing room in Tampa after leaving tonight’s win over Tampa with a laceration above his right knee caused by a skate blade. Backes was also tossed from Thursday night’s game in Florida with a match penalty in the first period as well.