BERN, Switzerland – The United States received a somewhat unexpected test from Latvia at the IIHF World Hockey Championship, and coach Ron Wilson was happy to see his team get challenged.
Jack Johnson scored two goals as the Americans twice erased deficits for a 4-2 win over Latvia on Saturday. Drew Stafford and Patrick O’Sullivan also scored for the Americans, who outshot the Latvians 38-19.
“You want to face a little bit of adversity and test your character somewhat,” said Wilson, who coaches the Toronto Maple Leafs. “I don’t know this team very well and you are just trying to build a little chemistry.”
Herberts Vasiljevs and Martins Karsums replied for Latvia while Edgars Masalskis made 34 saves.
“We got better as the game went on,” Wilson said. “I think we were a little nervous at the beginning and had trouble finding a rhythm.
“Right now we don’t have to be great in the first couple of games.”
Elsewhere at the world championship Saturday, it was: Finland 5, Norway 0; Czech Republic 5, Denmark 0; and Sweden 7, Austria 1.
At Bern, the U.S. erased a 2-1 deficit by scoring twice in five minutes during the second period to take its first lead.
Stafford’s shot from a tight angle on the right squeezed inside the near post, and Johnson emerged from behind the goal-line to slip his shot past Masalskis.
O’Sullivan then scored at 6:03 of the third after collecting a rebound from Ron Hainsey’s shot.
“They know in every situation what to do,” said Latvia captain Karlis Skrastins, a veteran Florida Panthers defenceman. “They had more speed, more power and were controlling the puck. If you play against that an hour long you are getting more tired.”
Latvia took the lead at the 4:40 mark of the first period, nine seconds into a power play created when defenceman Johnson was called for interference. Vasiljevs then converted on a pass across the crease.
Johnson made up for his error by equalizing at 11:15. The 22-year-old’s shot from beyond the circle got through a tangle of players and past Masalskis.
Karsums, the Tampa Bay Lightning forward, restored Latvia’s lead at 6:29 of the second on a pass from behind the net.
Montreal Canadiens forward Christopher Higgins and goalie Alec Richards from Yale University were added to the U.S. roster Friday but did not dress.
“Each game you learn a little more about each other,” U.S. captain Dustin Brown said. “This round of games, it’s important to win them, but it’s our time to get comfortable with our system.”
Finland 5, Norway 0
At Zurich, Antti Miettinen, Jarkko Immonen and Niko Kapanen each scored on first-period power plays while Pekka Rinne made 30 saves.
Mika Pyorala and Mikko Lehtonen added insurance goals as Finland outshot Norway 45-30 and controlled most of the action.
Czech Republic 5, Denmark 0
At Kloten, Switzerland, Jaromir Jagr and Petr Cajanek each had a goal and an assist while Jakub Stepanek made 21 saves.
Jaroslav Hlinka, Jan Marek and Ales Hemsky also scored for the Czechs, while Patrick Galbraith stopped 40 shots for the Danes.
Sweden 7, Austria 1
At Bern, Kenny Jonsson, Magnus Johansson and Marcus Nilson scored in the opening 13 minutes and Sweden cruised to victory from there.
Mattias Weinhandl with two, Johan Harju and Loui Eriksson added third-period goals to put the game away. Martin Oraze replied for Austria.