2006 OLYMPICS: Budaj, Slovakia Beat USA 2-1
Atlanta Thrashers teammates Marian Hossa and Peter Bondra sandwiched goals around one by Brian Rolston to lift Slovakia to a 3-0 record in the tournament so far.
Slovakia strengthened its first-place hold in the Olympics Group B, moving two points ahead of Russia and Sweden and three in front of the Americans (1-1-1). The top four in the six-team group move on to the quarterfinals. Each team, including Latvia and Kazakhstan at the bottom, has two preliminary games remaining.
While the U.S. held a 30-21 shots advantage, the Americans were hurt by many shots that either sailed off the mark or were blocked before reaching goalie Peter Budaj.
After defenseman Chris Chelios fell down behind the U.S. goal, Miroslav Satan took the puck and quickly passed out front to Bondra, who was surrounded by four American players. No matter, as he quickly found a spot between Rick DiPietro's pads to make it 2-1 just 1:48 into the third period.
The United States nearly got even while short-handed around the 7-minute mark. Jason Blake skated in alone but struck the crossbar, and Erik Cole was denied by Budaj's stick on a 3-on-2 rush.
Budaj, one of three Colorado Avalanche goalies in the Olympics, appeared to fight the puck throughout the game yet he did enough to keep it out of the net.
He had help in front as Slovakia seemed content to often sit back and wait for the Americans to come at them and make mistakes. When it happened, the Slovaks were kind to transition to offense.
They grabbed a 1-0 lead after Mathieu Schneider was sent off for checking-from-behind late in the opening period.
Hossa, Bondra's teammate with the Atlanta Thrashers, got away from Craig Conroy along the right-wing boards and cut into the right circle. Once he had space and a good angle, he let a shot fly that got between DiPietro's pads.
That sent the chanting, horn-blowing and music-playing fans dressed in red, white and blue - the Slovakian kind - into a roaring frenzy.
The U.S. responded with a power-play goal of its own, the fourth scored by the Americans in their three Olympic games.
Scott Gomez won a neutral zone faceoff back to New Jersey Devils teammate Brian Rafalski, who played his first game of the tournament after sitting out twice with what was believed to be a rib injury. Rafalski moved it across the zone to Rolston, who carried the puck across the blue line and ripped a shot past Budaj with 1:36 left in the second.
DAY THREE RECAP:
The biggest news of the day belonged to the Swiss once again. Fresh off a win over the Czechs, Switzerland did it again Saturday, shocking Canada 2-0 as Martin Gerber made 49 saves and Paul di Pietro scored twice.
In other early action, Alexander Kharitonov scored the only goal of the game to lift Russia to a 1-0 victory over Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan goalie Vitaliy Yeremeyev faced 50 shots and made 49 saves in a losing effort.
Sweden topped Latvia 6-1 behind two assists from Peter Forsberg. Germany and Italy skated to a 3-3 tie and Finland stayed unbeated with a 4-2 victory over the Czech Republic.
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