HALIFAX – The United States needed every bit of its quick start to survive a scare from an opportunistic German team.
Zach Parise’s power play goal with 8:56 remaining in the third period was the winner as the Americans held on for a 6-4 qualifying round victory over Germany at the IIHF world hockey championship Thursday.
The U.S appeared to have the game in hand when they scored three times in the opening 2:52 of the first period, but Germany refused to go away, gradually chipping away at the American lead.
Germany tied things at 4-4 early in the third, forcing Parise to come through on the power play. The New Jersey Devils sniper took the puck at the side of the goal and roofed it over Germany netminder Dimitrij Patzold.
The Americans iced the victory when Dustin Brown scored into an empty net with 1:36 remaining.
“We kind of let them hang around. We let them off the hook a little bit,” said Parise, who finished with two goals and an assist. “But I don’t think it’s much of a concern. (Germany) played hard.
“If anything, we learned we have to play a 60-minute game. The teams in this tournament are too good to let them off like that.”
The Americans, two days removed from a tough 5-4 setback against Canada, dominated much of the play against Germany, which a day earlier suffered a disappointing loss to Norway.
Final shots favoured the Americans 42-15, but Germany capitalized on its few chances and seemed like it might skate away with the improbable win.
In other action it was: Canada 2, Norway 1; Czech Republic 5, Switzerland 0; and Sweden 8, Denmark 1.
The Americans refused to let that happen. They controlled the final 10 minutes of regulation, showing character despite the team’s youth.
“It’s nice to see we can win this type of game,” said Parise, one the stars on an American club made up mostly of players aged 25-and-under. “When we need to score some goals, we can.”
The game began with a bang, as the Americans scored three times on four shots.
Parise opened the scoring just 26 seconds in as he fired a bullet shot from the slot that beat Patzold to the blocker side.
Patrick O’Sullivan made it 2-0 at 2:10 of the first on a shot from in close, and James Wisniewski scored again for the U.S. just 42 seconds later when he pinched in from the blue-line and beat Patzold with a quick release.
Germany, looking totally outmatched against the Americans, finally found life at 14:03 of the first when Michael Hackert bounced a wrap-around attempt off a sliding O’Sullivan and in behind American goaltender Craig Anderson.
Three minutes later, Germany scored again as Christopher Schmidt pinched in from the point during a power play and one-timed a shot underneath Anderson, who faced only four shots in the period.
In the second, the U.S. took a 4-2 lead when Jason Pominville banked the puck in off Patzold during a five-on-three U.S. power play. But Germany cut the deficit to one five minutes later as Florian Busch scored his second of the tournament on a goal-mouth scramble.
In the third, Germany tied things up at 4:55 as Michael Bakos let a shot go from the point that went through a crowd and past Anderson. After the goal, Anderson was pulled for back-up Robert Esche. Anderson allowed four goals on 10 shots. Esche faced only five shots in relief duty.
“Give them credit. Germany played a good game,” said U.S. blue-liner Paul Martin, who assisted on both of Parise’s goals. “But we didn’t give them a lot chances. They just did a good job capitalizing on their opportunities.”
The U.S. now has two days off before returning to action Sunday afternoon to face unbeaten Finland. The Americans close out the qualifying round Monday against Norway.
The Americans are in second place in their six-team qualifying pool, and with a win in its final two games, clinches a spot in Wednesday’s quarter-finals.
“The Finns are going to be a challenge,” Martin said. “We have to now put this win behind us and focus on them.”
Canada 2, Norway 1
At Halifax, Steve Nash scored late in the third period as Canada edged a surprising Norway squad to remain undefeated at the championship.
Czech Republic 5, Switzerland 0
At Quebec, the talented Czech offence was too much for the Swiss squad, putting an end to their undefeated streak with a strong performance.
Sweden 8, Denmark 1
At Quebec, Henrik Lundqvist was solid in his first game of the tournament as Sweden bounced back from a disappointing loss to hammer Denmark.