BERN, Switzerland – The United States blew a three-goal lead in the third period and lost 6-5 in overtime to Sweden on Wednesday at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.
However, the single point was enough for the Americans to win Group C and avoid facing Russia just 18 hours later in a second-round match at the same rink.
Sweden plays Russia on Thursday, while the U.S. faces France on Friday.
“To win the group is huge,” said American coach Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “We didn’t want to play (Thursday).”
Kristian Huselius of the Columbus Blue Jackets scored 1:59 into the extra period to secure the extra point, after the U.S. had led 5-2 with less than 12 minutes to play.
Magnus Johansson buried a loose puck from close range, Niklas Persson advanced on a slow rebound to score with a wrist shot, and Mattias Weinhandl, with his second of the night, beat Robert Esche to make it 5-5 with 3:41 left.
“They started to stand still and we forechecked hard,” Sweden defenceman Tobias Enstrom said. “We showed a lot of character and that is going to be huge for us down the stretch.”
In other tournament action Wednesday, it was: Finland 4, the Czech Republic 3; Latvia 2, Austria 0; and Norway 5, Denmark 4 in overtime.
At Bern, the U.S. trailed 2-1 early in the second period, but John-Michael Liles of the Colorado Avalanche and Ryan Shannon scored on consecutive two-man advantages to put the U.S. in front.
Shannon then made it 4-2 from the slot at 4:06 of the third, and Jack Johnson made it 5-2 with a break-away goal at 8:20.
“That’s the best 10 minutes of hockey I’ve ever had a U.S. team play,” said Wilson, who has coached at the Olympic, worlds and World Cup level. “We totally dominated. We relaxed once we got the three-goal lead.
“Maybe in another day or so we can play at 60-minute level. We get a day off and our guys need that.”
Marcus Nilson had the other Swedish goal while Jonas Gustavsson stopped 39 shots. Patrick O’Sullivan also scored for the Americans while Esche made 22 saves.
Finland 4, Czech Republic 3
At Zurich, Niklas Hagman of the Toronto Maple Leafs scored the winner with eight minutes remaining as Finland rallied from a 3-1 deficit.
Finland opens the second round against Slovakia on Friday while the Czech Republic takes on Canada on Thursday.
The Czechs led 3-1 in the second period on goals from Tomas Rolinek, Miroslav Blatak and Ales Kotalik offset an early score from Finland’s Niko Kapanen.
But Ville Koistinen scored and Kapanen added a second to tie things heading into the final frame.
Norway 5, Denmark 4 (OT)
At Kloten, defenceman Tommy Jakobsen scored 1:11 into overtime to lift Norway into the tournament’s second round.
Patrick Thoresen, Anders Bastiansen, Tore Vikingstad and Mats Zuccarello Aasen also scored for Norway, which joins Finland and the Czech Republic in advancing from Group D.
Alexander Sundberg, Jesper Damgaard, Morten Green and Daniel Nielsen replied for Denmark.
Latvia 2, Austria 0
At Bern, Martins Cipulis and Guntis Dzerins scored while Edgars Masalskis stopped 21 shots as Latvia advanced to the second round.
Bernd Bruckler made 35 saves for Austria.