Team Canada is in the driver's seat of its group at the world hockey championship after beating Sweden 3-2 in overtime.
Ryan Ellis scored the winner to put the Canadians there, atop Group A with one game left in the preliminary round. Now, a regulation victory over Norway on Tuesday would clinch the top seed and no chance of facing powerhouse Russia until the final.
"We put ourselves behind the 8-ball (by losing to France), but moving forward I think we're obviously in pretty good shape," Ellis said Sunday at Chizhovka-Arena. "We like where we sit. Obviously the last game here's really important and (we want to) finish as high as we can."
A regulation loss to Sweden would have guaranteed Canada second place in the group and a potential semifinal showdown with Alex Ovechkin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Russia, which won has its first five games and outscored Group B opponents 26-6 in the process.
It was — and remains — a two-horse race on Canada's side because Sweden hadn't lost a game until Ellis scored 2:22 into overtime after a patient play and pass by Mark Scheifele. The teams are tied with 15 points, but Canada now controls its path because of an almost-insurmountable goal-differential lead (plus-14 to plus-7).
But that's only possible because Canada came out on top of Sweden in an even game.
Lots of chances
"I think there was lots of chances both ways," coach Dave Tippett said. "Lots of mistakes made by both teams. From a coaching standpoint, you look at the tape, there'll be a lot of errors, but (those are) what leads to an entertaining game."
Swedish coach Par Marts was "quite satisfied" with his team's performance in spite of the loss. Tippett said the difference was Canada capitalizing on a quality chance in overtime.
Ellis took care of that.
"It's anyone's game in overtime and obviously it came down to one bounce and for us it was fortunate to get the bounce," the Nashville Predators defenceman said. "The patience on Scheifele for such a young guy was unbelievable. He just put it right on my tape, and I just had to touch it."
After falling behind 2-0 on goals by Joakim Lindstrom and Linus Klasen, Canada tied it thanks to goals from Brayden Schenn and captain Kevin Bieksa. A total of 11 minor penalties were called in regulation, helping to make this a game played more in either end than through the neutral zone.
Bieksa said he and his teammates expected that going in after watching how penalties were called in Sweden's game against the Czech Republic. But that still took some adjusting for Ellis and this group of NHLers.
"When you play in the playoffs in the NHL and stuff like that, you usually get two or three power plays a game and you really have to make the most of that," Ellis said. "At times here it's more of a special-teams battle. Going forward I think we need to improve both sides of our special teams."
Americans edge Finland
In the other early game, Johnson scored in the third to make it 2-0 with a wrist shot and added his second into an empty net with 46 seconds left for the U.S. to move into the second place in Group B. Russia's victory then secured the Americans a place among the top four teams which advance to the quarterfinals from each group.
"It was a good game by our team," Johnson said. "Obviously, it was a must win for us to advance."
Brock Nelson opened the scoring just 19 seconds into the game when goaltender Pekka Rinne wanted to play the puck behind his goal but it deflected off the boards to Nelson right in front of the empty net to knock it in.
"It was a crazy bounce," Nelson said. "You've got to be ready for anything. It was a good start for us. We did a solid job of playing smart defensively in this game compared with some of the previous (ones)."
Tuukka Mantyla cut the U.S. lead to 2-1 with 3:14 remaining in regulation.
Overchkin hurt in Russian victory
Germany held Russia at bay for two periods before Vadim Shipachyov finally netted 3:58 into the third on a power play. Sergei Shirokov added the second and Viktor Tikhonov scored into an empty net for his seventh goal in Minsk.
Russia's 19-year-old goalie Andrei Vasilevski stopped 27 shots for the shutout.
Russia's star forward Alex Ovechkin left the ice midway through the third with an apparent leg injury.
Vladimir Sobotka scored the lone goal 39 seconds into the game for the Czechs to move to the third position in Group A. Norway is tied for fourth with France and Slovakia.
Czech goaltender Alexander Salak saved a penalty shot in the second and made 21 saves for the shutout.