(Photo by: Matt Slocum/AP)
In what started as a fast and physical game, Team USA dominated the Czech Republic in a victory that will take them one step closer to the Olympic medal podium.
Five different players scored in the 5-2 win.
James van Riemsdyk struck first, assisted by Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler, just 1:21 into the game. But, Milan Michalek (assisted by Ales Hemsky, Marek Zidlicky) bit back three minutes later when his shot appeared to fumble around, off Ryan McDonagh’s clear attempt and Ryan Suter’s skate, past goaltender Jonathan Quick.
The Czech Republic gained momentum with the tied game, with Cam Fowler saving a Hemsky shot that Quick didn’t control and David Backes battling Jaromir Jagr for the puck in the neutral zone.
USA (and Pittsburgh Penguins) Coach Dan Bylsma is just 6-15 in his last 21 NHL games versus former Penguin Jagr, an interesting statistic that fortunately for USA hockey was proved moot as the team’s energy picked back up in the last several minutes of the first.
At 5:22, Dustin Brown scored with a one-timer set up from Backes and Suter. The U.S. widened their lead with just 1.8 seconds left, when Backes (assisted by McDonagh, Suter) was able to angle a shot past Ondrej Pavalec.
“They’re hard-working, ugly, blue collar type goals and that’s what we needed,” Backes (who also saves puppies) said during intermission.
About halfway through the second, Captain Zach Parise scored on another difficult angle, rebounding off a shot by Joseph Pavelski and taking USA ahead by three.
A bad penalty by Brooks Orpik (interference, late in the period) was matched by Jakub Voracek, making for almost two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey.
While shots on goal only favored the U.S. team by two (9-7) in the first, they were 18-13 at the end of the second period.
Just two minutes into the third, Phil Kessel took the lead to 5-1 on a pass from Kesler (also assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk). Later in period, Hemsky skated right through the middle of the ice with seven minutes left in the game and shot a wrister past Quick. That wouldn’t be enough to turn the tides for the Czech team, though, as the U.S. protected their lead through the finish.
With that victory, Team USA takes on Canada in the semifinals at 12:00 P.M. ET Friday.