SOCHI, Russia -- In a North American showdown, the U.S. men’s hockey team failed to muster much of an attack against Canada in the semifinals at Bolshoy Icedom on Friday night, as Canada advance to the gold-medal game against Sweden with a 1-0 win.
It was a game that lacked the intensity expected between rivals on a such a huge stage. Team USA, averaging five goals per game after four games, was shut out in front of a somewhat subdued 11,172 in attendance, much of whom were expecting a higher scoring game.
It may have had to do with Canada's defense, who stifled the U.S. for three periods. Canadian goalie Carey Price stopped all 31 U.S. shots.
Jamie Benn scored the game’s lone goal, his second of the tournament, early in the second period, deflecting home a Jay Bouwmeester slap-pass.
Being shutout was a disappointment for the Americans given the high-powered offense the team had shown in previous games in Sochi. The Phil Kessel-Joe Pavelski-James van Riemsdyk line, which has been extremely dangerous for the U.S. throughout the Games, was held in check by Canada’s defensemen. The line had scored 18 goals over the first for U.S. games.
“We didn’t really create much offense,” U.S. forward Patrick Kane said. “It’s a little disappointing. … I think everyone expected a tight-checking game, but to say we would have gotten shut out, I don’t think anyone would have thought that.”
The U.S. was unable to convert on several opportunistic chances, and failed to score on all three of its power plays. They came into the contest ranked third, scoring on 27.3 percent of its power play opportunities.
The offensive struggles led to some rather quiet, and tepid moments. There were often chants of "USA" and "Canada" but the loudest cries were from the mostly unenterainted Russian contingent, who would yell "Shayba" the Russian term for "puck."
The game still had some quality play, particulary if you appreciate hard-nosed defense.
"They both played very well. It was very good hockey. It would have been better if the U.S. won," said Keith Moskow from Vermont.
"Thought it was spectacular. There is a lot of pressure on these guys, and they rose to the occasion," said Justin Kangarloo of Calgary, Alberta.
Canada now enters Sunday’s gold medal game against Sweden allowing just three goals over the course of the tournament.
Despite the poor offensive performance, U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick was solid in net, stopping 36 of 37 shots.
Team USA will have a quick turnaround, facing Finland for the bronze medal Saturday. The U.S. is looking to medal for the second straight Winter Olympics and third in the last four.
Finland enters the bronze medal game after suffering a 2-1 loss to Sweden in the all-Scandinavian semifinal. The Finns were playing without No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask, who was ill. His replacement, Kari Lehtonen, was solid, making 23 saves. Finland took a 1-0 lead on Olli Jokinen’s goal with 6:17 remaining in the second period, but Sweden was able to tie the game when Loui Eriksson scored with 11:39 remaining in regulation.
The game-winner came on a power play when Erik Karlsson ripped a slap shot through Lehtonen from 55 feet for his fourth goal of the tournament.
“I felt we were one step behind the whole game pretty much,” Finland captain Teemu Selanne said. “A bronze medal would be an unbelievable thing. So that is our goal now, even though it is very disappointing right now.”
Prediction: USA over Finland, 3-1
Bobby Ilich contributed to this report from Sochi.