Canada's juniors come back to beat U.S. in shootout

Brandon Kozun scored the winner in the third round of the shootout to lead Canada to a 5-4 comeback victory over the United States at the world junior hockey championships in Saskatoon on New Year's Eve.

Kozun scores in third round to secure a place in the semifinals

There's something about playing the Americans that brings out the best and worst in Canada's junior hockey team.

Exactly a year after fighting back from a 3-0 deficit to the United States at the world championships to take a big victory, the young Canadians again staged a remarkable New Year's Eve comeback, this time in Saskatoon.

This time they spotted Team USA a 4-2 lead early in the third period, came roaring back to tie the score and force overtime, then beat them on a Brandon Kozun shootout zipper through the five-hole of goaltender Jack Campbell to win 5-4.

That victory gives the hosts top spot in Pool B, and a bye into Sunday's semifinal where they will play the winner of Saturday's quarterfinal between Russia and Switzerland.

"Good teams find a way to win and we kept battling," said defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, who sent the game to overtime with a short-handed goal late in regulation. "It's unbelievable for us to have [coming back against the USA] happen again."

For the Americans — who did everything they had to do and more through the first 50 minutes only to see it slip away once again — now have to go through a Saturday game with Finland in hopes of meeting waiting Sweden on Sunday.

Two goals by Jordan Eberle and singles by Stefan Della Rovere and Pietrangelo accounted for Canada's scoring in regulation, while Danny Kristo, Philip McRae, Jordan Schroeder and Tyler Johnson replied for the U.S.

After a scoreless five-minute, four-on-four overtime, the game went to the shootout, where only one player failed to score.

Eberle, Nazem Kadri and Kozun beat Campbell in the U.S. net, with Kristo and Jeremy Morin getting the puck by Jake Allen in the Canadian goal.

That set up an attempt by Schroeder to keep the shootout alive for the Americans. He came in on Allen, faked, and then tried for a shot between the legs, where Canada's goalie had been vulnerable earlier in the night.

But Allen outguessed Schroeder, who closed the gates and sealed the win.

"He got the  best of me [earlier in the game] and if he tried it again, he wasn't going to get it through — that was the plan," said Allen, who came into the game riding two shutouts against inferior opponents. "It's a great feeling. I feel like Carey Price did [when he beat the U.S. in 2007]. It puts me in his shoes."

Wild third period

Canada trailed 3-2 at the start of the third and were just coming off a power play when the Americans took advantage of another in a long line of defensive lapses at the blue-line by the hosts.

A clearing pass found Kristo and he raced back on a one-on-one, sped past the defender and put the puck through the legs of Allen to make it 4-2 Team USA.

Eberle's second of the game got the Canadians to within one with 9:57 to go when a quick shot from the point by Brandon McMillan was tipped out of the air and past Campbell to make it 4-3.

Then, as seems to happen so often in the latter stages of these world junior tournaments, Canada came up with the key goal at the moment it was most needed.

An intercepted pass in the neutral zone sent Pietrangelo streaking down the right side short-handed, he deked past a defender and then rifled one up over the shoulder of Campbell and in for the 4-4 tie with 4:15 left in regulation. 

And a good thing, too, because the Americans had been taking advantage of Canadian errors all night, scoring twice short-handed and once just seconds after killing off another penalty.

Allen was also forced to stop a penalty shot by Chris Kreider with the U.S. up 2-1 in the second period, then a breakaway by Kyle Palmieri that produced a rebound the goaltender held out, then another short-handed breakout later that produced a good stop.

It looked for a moment as though Canada had won this one in regulation when a shot by Travis Hamonic from the point with seconds to go went in, but the referees called it off because Brayden Schenn was lying on top of goaltender Campbell at the time.

"We had them right where we wanted them," said Schroeder, one of the American goal scorers. "We let it slip at the end.

"We have to move forward. If we can get through Finland and Sweden, hopefully we'll see them in the championship game."

Canada is now 34-1 going back through five consecutive world championship victories.

The United States was the last team to prevent a Canadian win, taking a 4-3 decision and the gold medal in 2004.

 

With files from The Canadian Press