After making history by beating Sweden for the first time in half a century in their first game Team Norway rode a big wave of momentum into their tilt against team USA who was coming off a solid 5-1 opening win against Austria.
Norway came out skating and pressed the Team USA defense, getting a close call by ringing a shot off the cross bar early and eventually got on the board first by pushing the puck past US goalie Al Montoya, who was hugging the post and tried to hold his position as Norway crashed the net. The goal had to be reviewed but it would stand up as a good goal, for those keeping score it was officially credited to Ken Andre Olimb.
Later in the first the US was on the power play when Craig Smith would attempt a weak backhand pass that was intercepted by Norway's Anders Bastiansen who beat Al Montoya high glove side on a breakaway for the short handed goal.
Team USA was on its heals in the first period, struggling to break Norway's neutral zone trap, but managed to get a late power play that would carry over into the second period.
While there were no goals scored in the second period, Team USA really woke up and began asserting great pressure out shooting the Norwegians 20-5 with Cam Fowler getting the closest to cracking the scoreboard when his deflection on a power play point shot just hit the outside of the far post and just missed going into the net.
Going into the third you had a feeling that the US was about to break through and 1:16 into the third Chris Kreider and Nick Palmieri connected for a beautiful goal with Kreider feeding Palmieri with a crisp pass from the hash marks to a streaking Palmieri who deflected the puck into the goal off his skate (it would be reviewed but there was no kicking motion).
That opened the floodgates, Team USA kept applying pressure in offensive zone and forced the Norwegians to take bad penalties and let the US go the man advantage three times in the third (7 times overall). On the tying goal Tim Stapleton made a beautiful pass across the slot to Jack Skille who was crashing the net and puck behind Norwegian goalie Lars Haugen to tie the game.
From this point the Norwegians began to get chippy and played into the American's hands by taking stupid penalties and gave The US ample time to apply pressure in the offensive zone. Nick Palmieri scored his second of the game and on the power play to give the US a 3-2 lead with only 6 minutes to play.
Craig Smith redeemed himself for his earlier gaff that led to Norway's second goal by sealing Norway's fate with a power play goal by standing right in front of the net and depositing a Derek Stepan feed (who was patrolling the left wing half boards NOTE TO TORTORELLA) behind Haugen for the goal.
The Americans once again played solid defense limiting Norway to only 15 shots (and only 5 in the second and 3 in the third). Montoya made the saves he had to make and while it could be argued that he could have been more tighter on the first goal, he had no shot on the second goal as it was a perfect shot over the glove and under the bar.
With the win Team USA earns a spot in the Qualification Round and will next play Sweden on Wednesday same time, same channel.
Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Chris Kreider all had solid games once again and all three had assists as well as minor penalties.
Stepan continues to impress with his top line duties with Blake Wheeler and Craig Smith having an impact in the offensive zone every time they are on the ice. Derek is really using the larger ice surface to bring out his passing abilities and his expert vision to find his teammates and set them up for chances.
Kreider is turning me into a real believer, he's been strong on the puck, moving his feet and getting into prime scoring areas as well as setting up his teammates for scoring chances. Kreider is showing that he can play with NHL-calibur line and teammates. Could make things a lot more interesting down the line and I'm beginning to think he may go pro after the tournament is over.
Chris' line with Ryan Shannon and Nick Palmieri has been working perfectly to keep the pressure up in the offensive zone and has recored at least one goal in both games so far (Kreider has two points with a goal and an assist and Stepan has three assists in the tournament thus far). Palmieri is tied with Craig Smith for the team lead in goals with his two today and an assist.
My Three Stars of the Game:
1) Nick Palmieri (USA): He got team USA on the board as well as scored the game winner and has been flying thus far in the tournament.
2) Derek Stepan (USA): Step has been in forefront of all of the American's offense so far and his assist today was a thing of beauty.
3) Anders Bastiansen (NOR): Made a great play picking off Craig Smith's errant pass to lead to the breakaway short handed goal for Norway.
I'll have the video highlights for you guys when they are up on Youtube