Seeds Are Set After Canada Tops Finland in OT
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If Saturday's United States-Russia game was the marquee matchup of the preliminary round, then Sunday's Canada-Finland meeting to decide the winner of Group B was a close second.
And like Saturday's game, Sunday's winner had to be decided in extra time.
Drew Doughty (Los Angeles) scored his second goal of the game at 2:32 of overtime to lift Canada to a 2-1 victory at Bolshoy Ice Dome.
Both Canada and Finland earned automatic bids into Wednesday's quarterfinals since the Canadians won the group and the Finns won the wild card spot after they finished with the fourth most points (seven) in the three-game preliminary round. In the quarterfinals, Canada will play the winner of Switzerland-Latvia while Finland will play the winner of Russia-Norway.
Avalanche forward Matt Duchene played in his second consecutive game, posting 13:12 of ice time for the Canadians.
Duchene played on a line with a pair of Anaheim Ducks forwards in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the same two skaters he played with during his Olympic debut Friday against Austria.
He mostly played on the wing with the two Ducks, but he did see a little time at his natural position of center as he took two faceoffs (winning both) and switched spots with primary center Getzlaf many times for the low position in front or behind Finland's net.
Canada held a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission after Doughty scored on a slap shot from the point at 13:44 of the opening period, but Tuomo Ruuto tied the game at 1-1 for Finland with two minutes remaining in the second period.
Goalie Carey Price made 14 saves for Canada, while Tuukka Rask stopped 25 shots for Finland.
Battle of a game tonight it was not pretty but we got it done!— Matt Duchene (@Matt9Duchene) February 16, 2014
Wanna thank my hometown hockey organization for sending this banner over with my family. Me and my sis lovin it! pic.twitter.com/MV7e3ADoD4— Matt Duchene (@Matt9Duchene) February 16, 2014
USA CLINCHES GROUP A
Coming off a thrilling 3-2 shootout win against Russia on Saturday, the United States had to be careful to not overlook Olympic newcomer Slovenia in its final game of group play.
Any worry of a letdown against Slovenia quickly disappeared as Phil Kessel (Toronto) scored two of his three goals in the first 4:33 and Team USA went on for a 5-1 victory.
The United States wins Group A and receives an automatic bye into Wednesday's quarterfinals where it will play either the Czech Republic or Slovakia.
Slovenia is playing in their first Olympics and was riding some momentum after a strong showing Thursday in a close loss to Russia and earning its first Olympic win on Saturday against Slovakia. The Slovenians managed only 18 shots against the Americans, with the only one to beat goalie Ryan Miller (Buffalo) coming with 18 seconds left in the final period.
Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers) and David Backes (St. Louis) joined Kessel with goals.
The Avalanche's Paul Stastny continued playing on a line with TJ Oshie (St. Louis) for the Americans, but he had a new winger as Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg) replaced the scratched Max Pacioretty (Montreal). Stastny played 12:19, had five shots and won 50 percent of his faceoffs (6 of 12).
Stastny's line helped extend USA's lead to 3-0, which all but solidified the win. The trio had a good shift, pinning a tired Slovenian squad into their zone midway through the second period. The pressure allowed Kessel to score his third goal of the game, marking a natural hat trick.
"I thought that was maybe our best point in the game," U.S. coach Dan Bylsma said of the sequence Stastny's line produced.
Team USA finished preliminary play as the No. 2 seed, but there will be no championship redemption for the Americans against Canada if both teams make it to the Gold Medal Game. Canada is the No. 3 seed and the two countries wouldn't face each other in a medal game, but instead in the semifinals—if they both get there.
VARLY SAVES THE DAY FOR RUSSIA
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves through overtime and stopped two more chances in the shootout to lead Russia to a 1-0 win over Slovakia. It was Varlamov's first career Olympic shutout.
After an eight-round shootout on Saturday that ended in a loss to the U.S., Sunday's shootout only lasted two rounds as the Russians scored on both of their tries and Varlamov made two right-pad saves to secure the victory for the host nation.
The win gives the Russians six points after preliminary play, placing them as the No. 5 seed and forcing them play a qualification playoff game against Norway on Tuesday. If Russia defeats Norway, it will play Finland in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Varlamov was tested early against Slovakia but denied every shot as he made nine saves in the first period and 13 in the second.
Russia took control in the third period and outshot Slovakia 15-2, but it was unable to beat netminder Jan Laco until the shootout when Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk scored.
Varlamov stopped three shots in the five-minute overtime period and improved to 2-0 in the Olympic tournament. He made 12 saves in a win against Slovenia on Thursday.
SWEDEN TAKES TOP SEED
The only thing Gabriel Landeskog and Sweden could do on Sunday was watch.
The Swedes knew they had already won their group after defeating Latvia in their final preliminary game on Saturday, but it would be the result of the Canada-Finland game that would decide where they would be seeded.
With Canada only able to pick up two of the possible three points with its overtime win, Sweden earned the top seed for the playoff round that begins Tuesday. From here on out, it will be win or go home for every team.
Sweden went 3-0 during preliminary play and earned an automatic bye to the quarterfinals after winning Group C. The Swedes will play the winner of Tuesday's qualification playoff between Slovenia and Austria in the quarterfinals.