Team USA was built to beat Canada. That was the plan when they were putting the team together. They had their chance tonight in one of the more anticipated games of the tournament. And they did not get it done.
Canada defeated the US 4-2 to eliminate the Americans from the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and to themselves advance to the next round. The US could muster only two goals so far in the World Cup and will play the Czech Republic on Thursday in a totally meaningless game for both teams.
Kyle Palmieri dressed for the US, playing right wing on a line centered by David Backes and with Max Pacioretty on the left side. Other New Jersey natives James van Riemsdyk played left win on the first line and John Carlson was a top defensive pairing with Ryan McDonagh. Dustin Byfuglien was also back in the lineup on defense, paired with Erik Johnson. Cory Schneider was a healthy scratch.
Jonathan Quick got the start in net for the US, making 30 saves on 34 shots faced. Carey Price started for Canada, making 33 saves on 35 US shots.
Canada was officially the visiting team, although they had the home ice advantage in the building, the schedule was pulled from 124 possible computer permutations, one of which was pulled from a hat by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. Although Canada had the fan support, the US would have the last change on the ice.
The US got on the board very quickly, coming out like they knew they needed to against the Canadian juggernaut. Ryan McDonagh scored at 4:22 of the first period, chipping the puck under the crossbar and in on the Americans’ first shot on goal. Derek Stepan and Patrick Kane had the assists. Officials checked for goaltender interference, but there was none and it was a good goal.
The US was staked to a quick 1-0 lead, but from there, it was all Canada. Matt Duchene tied things up about a minute and a half later when he put a shot by Marc-Edouard Vlasic that rebounded off of the end boards into the net. Joe Thornton had the secondary assist.
The second Canadian goal was a key moment in the game. The puck went in off Corey Perry’s pants leg, with no directing motion. The goal was reviewed, as all goals are in this tournament (just like in the NHL playoffs), and ruled a good goal. US coach John Tortorella challenged the call on the ice. The goal stood and the US lost any further challenges and their timeout. Logan Couture and Jonathan Toews had the assists on Perry’s goal at 6:05 of the first.
After that bonanza of goals, things settled down a little bit, until 12:07 of the first, when Duchene netted his second of the game, walking in all alone, one-on-one with Quick and beating him five-hole. It was a broken play by the Americans when Max Pacioretty could not clear the zone and Brent Burns kept the puck in, passing it down low to Duchene. Canada would hit the post on a shot immediately after Duchene’s second goal.
Canada went on their first power play of the night when Justin Abdelkader was called for interference on Price at 18:15, but it was almost immediately negated when Canada’s Perry was called for an ugly knee-on-knee tripping call about 30 seconds later. Both teams went 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
ESPN color commentator Barry Melrose pointed out that the US had dominated early on in faceoffs, but Canada won all of the loose puck battles, especially late in the first. He also mentioned that Carey Price’s puck handling skills allowed him to clear any pucks down near his net, cutting off any chance for the Americans to begin getting a cycle going down low.
Going into the first intermission, Team Canada seemed to be cruising with a 3-1 lead.
The second period kicked off with the US getting a nice 2-on-1 deep in the Canadian zone. Joe Pavelski had van Riemsdyk open at the side of the net, but got too fancy and the play was broken up by the Canadian defense.
The Canadians opened up a bigger lead 8:50 into the second when Patrice Bergeron scored from John Tavares and Alex Pietrangelo. Team Canada crashed the net and the puck ended up going in off of McDonagh’s skate. Canada had another chance minutes later when they hit the post on an empty net – as Quick was caught out of position. It remained 4-1 Canada going into the third period.
The US would go on to hit the post about four times in the final minutes of the third period: Stepan, Byfuglien and Pacioretty all nailed the iron on nice chances to pull the USA back into the game.
The US would make the scoreline look respectable when TJ Oshie scored with about three and a half minutes left in the game. Van Riemsdyk set up the goal that went in off of a Canadian defenseman. Pavelski had the secondary assist.
The US would pull Quick with about two minutes left in the contest, and Kane had a nice opportunity on goal, but the Americans just could not find the back of the net again and the Canadians advanced along with Team Europe to the next stage with a 4-2 win.
So the US has one more game remaining: a meaningless contest with the Czechs on Thursday, playing only for pride. The Canadians move on, as does Team Europe. From Group B, Sweden and Team North America will move on while Russia and Finland go home.
Kyle Palmieri, who would see only 8:53 of total ice time, played 1:38 on the American power play. He had two shots total, was a minus-1 and had one hit and a blocked shot.
Something interesting that was brought up by the ESPN announcers was the concept of Team North America. Although the team got a lot of extra players into the tournament that might not have gotten to play, it also limited the younger players that Teams USA and Canada could choose for their clubs. The concept is interesting, but will it be back in future installments of the World Cup?
Overall, it was a pretty disappointing showing for the Americans in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. But the team was built to do one thing: beat Canada to the detriment of everything else. When they lost to Team Europe, it set up a tailspin that they could not correct. Canada also had way too much skill for the USA to compete. Jonathan Quick played well, but Canada was just too much firepower for the US. Hopefully, going forward, the heads of USA Hockey will look at how they construct their teams for tournaments like this and bring the best players that are available to them to those tournaments.