Olympics: U.S. 'didn't show up to play' in 1-0 loss to Canada
Sochi, Russia • Russia's hockey team must have hijacked the fire wagon from the United States to extinguish the Olympic flame on its humbled journey out of town.
How else to explain the soulless clash Friday between North American powers headlining the marquee matchup of the Olympic tournament?
Canada, the reigning gold medalists, ultimately prevailed 1-0 to advance to the title game for the third time in four Olympics.
Team USA, which won silver medals after losses to Canada in 2002 and 2010, will have to settle for a bronze medal JV game Saturday against Finland while the Canadians face Sweden for global supremacy Sunday.
It was an efficient slog for Canada, which dominated the puck with a physical game that drained the energy from the high-octane Americans, stultifying the crowd of 11,172 that came to see pond hockey not Wild-Devils circa 2001.
Sure, there was speed. Canada roared up and down the ice and essentially played keep-away as Team USA remained a step behind and tired trying to catch up.
"We didn't show up to play," groused defenseman Ryan Suter, the U.S. alternate captain from the Minnesota Wild. "It's kind of frustrating. They're a good team. We sat back. We were passive. You can't play scared. I thought we sat on our heels and just didn't take it to them at all."
The United States boasted a balanced and prolific offense, with a tournament-leading 20 goals in four games compared with Canada's 13. But the Americans could not produce one when it mattered most.
Not Phil Kessel, whose five goals and nine points led all players, nor Patrick Kane, who has laid an Olympic goose egg.
"We had an awesome opportunity. I don't think we laid it on the line like we needed to to win," said center David Backes. "A 1-0 game in the semifinal against your rival country, it's a sour taste, for sure."
Team USA failed to generate much electricity on its three power plays. Its forecheck was virtually nonexistent. Canada made it difficult for American forwards to work with impunity like they had throughout the tournament.
"We have some big forwards and were able to hold the puck down low," Canadian captain Sidney Crosby said. "We forced them to play in the defensive zone a lot. They've got a lot of guys who are skilled. They have a lot of speed, but I think we did a good job of keeping them in there for at least 20 seconds in shifts."
American Goalie Jonathan Quick was strong, making 36 saves. But Jamie Benn broke the ice early in the second period.
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester crashed the zone hard and wristed a shot wide right, avoiding a charging Backes. Benn cut to the net and got a blade on Bouwmeester's pass-shot, redirecting it top shelf at 1:41.
And that was it for offense. Canada outshot the Americans 37-31 and improved to 50-7-3 internationally against the United States, which has to recalibrate quickly for Saturday's bridesmaids game against the Finns.
"It's one more time to wear this red, white and blue for our country and hopefully come home with some hardware,"
Backes said. "That's what our sights are on now. Obviously it's a sick feeling tonight, but we've got one more chance tomorrow to make this trip worth it."
Defenseman Paul Martin of Elk River was a late scratch because of a hand injury. That allowed Justin Faulk of South St. Paul to replace him on the blue line with Brooks Orpik.
Otherwise, Team USA went with the same lineup that had dominated Slovakia and Slovenia in the preliminary round, plus the Czechs in Wednesday's quarterfinal.
Russia provided the biggest challenge during last week's electrifying 3-2 shootout win. T.J. Oshie's heroics will define the 2014 Olympic team, but there was much left on the table.
The United States was 5-0 including a victory over Canada during its run to a gold-medal rematch in Vancouver, ultimately won when Sidney Crosby scored the overtime winner for Canada on home ice.
Team USA has never won an Olympic bronze medal. It won gold in 1960 and 1980, and silver in 1972, 2002 and 2010.
Afterward, coach Dan Bylsma put on a brave face talking about the 2010 rematch that fell flat and what lies ahead for his crestfallen club.
"There's huge disappointment not being able to come up with a victory in this game," he said. "But that's got to be put behind us real quick. We still have a lot to play for. We're going home with a bronze medal after we put this loss behind us."
Jamie Benn scored in the second period, Carey Price made 31 saves, and Canada beat the United States 1-0 Friday night in the semifinals of the Olympic men's hockey tournament.
Canada advanced to the gold-medal match Sunday against Sweden, which beat Finland 2-1 in the earlier semifinal at Bolshoy Ice Dome. The Canadians are on the brink of their third gold medal in four Olympics, and they're guaranteed their first medals outside North America in 20 years.
After its first loss in Sochi, the U.S. will face Finland for bronze on Saturday.
The defending Olympic champions left no doubt about their North American hockey supremacy in a semifinal rematch of the final game of the Vancouver Games, won on Sidney Crosby's golden goal.
The Canadians haven't even trailed in the Sochi Olympics, and they didn't need overtime to maintain border supremacy on the U.S. Their stifling defense has allowed just three goals in five games, and they clamped down on the high-scoring American offense for every minute of a slightly anti-climactic evening.
Canada beat the Americans for the fourth time in five Olympic meetings since the NHL players joined the party in 1998. Both teams rolled unbeaten through the Sochi tournament to this showdown, but the expected offensive theatrics in this meeting never occurred, buried along with the friendships and NHL bonds that must be discarded when these teams meet.
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester created the only goal with a clever pass to Benn, the Dallas Stars captain in the midst of an outstanding tournament. That was all the offense needed by Price, the Montreal goalie who easily handled the Americans' few good chances, including their clunky power plays.
Jonathan Quick stopped 36 shots for the Americans, who had trailed for just 7:19 in Sochi before Benn's goal put them in a hole they never escaped.
The Americans entered the rematch hoping for redemption from their gut-wrenching defeat four years ago. The U.S. rallied from a late two-goal deficit on Zach Parise's tying goal with 24 seconds left in regulation, only to lose on Crosby's score.
Instead, the Americans got another reminder of Canada's clout.
Crosby still has no goals through five games in Sochi, but the Canadian captain had his best overall game of the tournament, even if linemate Chris Kunitz failed to convert a handful of stellar chances created by his center.
For all the talent and high stakes on the ice, the Bolshoy wasn't exactly rocking for the game, with the predominantly Russian crowd apparently struggling to decide whom to root against.
The teams didn't need a crackling atmosphere to play a world-class brand of hockey. The scoreless first period was fast and exciting, with Quick stopping 16 Canadian shots. Crosby shook off his early-tournament struggles and played at a breakneck pace, while the American forwards generated numerous chances on pure speed.
Canada went ahead early in the second period during a shift by Benn and Anaheim Ducks teammates Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Bouwmeester threaded a pass into the slot, and Benn deflected it past Quick, whose aggression sometimes makes him vulnerable to such shots.
Canada didn't slow down: Benn nearly got another goal, but a facedown Quick gloved his shot. Paul Stastny then had a prime chance after a poor U.S. power play expired late in the period, but pushed a rebound just wide under Price.
Canada played without forward John Tavares, who injured his leg against Latvia. The U.S. was without defenseman Paul Martin, who had a cast on his hand at the morning skate.