USA wins, Slovaks' medal hopes end
Stepan, Gaborik, Kreider all get goals in second qualification-round games
• Rangers' Stats at World Championships
Rangers forward Derek Stepan and prospect Chris Kreider each had a goal for Team USA on Saturday, as the Americans roared back from an early 1-0 deficit and held off France 3-2 in IIHF World Championship tournament qualification-round play at Kosice, Slovakia.
The victory, combined with Switzerland's loss to Sweden on Sunday, clinched a berth for Team USA in the upcoming quarterfinals.
In Saturday's only other game involving a member of the Rangers organization, the end result was not nearly as nice for Blueshirts forward Marian Gaborik, whose Slovak host team was eliminated from medal contention with a 2-1 loss to Finland at Bratislava.
Gaborik scored the lone Slovakia goal on a power-play in the qualification-round defeat. The Slovaks have one more qualification-round game remaining on Monday, but will not be able to reach the tournament quarterfinals after going 1-4-0 through five games.
Captain Mark Stuart scored the third goal for the Americans, as Team USA (3-1-1) dominated an undermatched French squad whose best player was former NHL goaltender Cristobal Huet.
The U.S. outshot France 38-22, forcing Huet to make 35 saves just to see the game end in a one-goal deficit.
France picked up its first goal during a 4-on-4 in the opening period and later cut the lead to 3-2 on a power-play goal by captain Laurent Meunier with 4:30 remaining in the game.
Stepan ended the game with three shots in 19:38 of ice time to lead all USA forwards. Kreider had two shots in 11:41 and was called for a penalty in the third period, and Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, the third member of the Blueshirts organization playing for Team USA, had no shots in 13:07 but finished plus-1 because he was on the ice for Stuart's go-ahead goal that gave the Americans the lead for good.
The biggest surprise was that France was able to take a 1-0 lead on Team USA. Sacha Treille got the surprising French goal when he picked up the puck in the neutral zone, skated in over the blue line, cut toward the high slot and fired a shot through U.S. goalie Ty Conklin's pads at 5:25 of the first.
Skating on a 4-on-4, Stepan easily solved Huet when he capped off a 2-on-1 with Blake Wheeler, who fed a pretty pass from the left circle to Stepan at the base of the right circle. With Huet out of position trying to play a potential shot by Wheeler, Stepan had an empty net to shoot at, and he buried the goal at 16:06 -- tying the score at 1-1 and stretching his points streak to five games.
Stepan saw 6:58 of first-period ice time, scoring on his only shot on goal. Kreider did not have a shot in 4:32 of first-period ice time, while McDonagh played 4:43 of the first.
Team USA didn't waste much time taking a 2-1 lead in the second period, as captain Mark Stuart scored off assists from Chris Porter and Paul Gaustad just 1:16 into the period. Pinching down into the left faceoff circle, Stuart collected a pass frm Porter and blew his shot past Huet to give Team USA the lead for good against an overmatched French squad.
The Americans went on a power play right after the goal, when Nicolas Arrosamena was called for hooking Blake Wheeler. Team USA took advantage as Kreider scored the crucial third goal at 5:24 off an assist from Andy Miele to make it 3-1.
The Americans' two-goal second period saw them outshoot France 14-5. Shots were closer at 13-12 for Team USA in the third, but it was too late for the French at that point.
In Slovakia's loss, Gaborik scored on a power-play opportunity from the slot at 16:21 of the first period -- his second goal of the tournament. Taking a perfect cross-ice pass from Michal Handzus at the top of the left circle, Gaborik wristed an even more impressive shot into the top left corner for a 1-0 lead.
The Finns tied the game on a goal by Tuomo Ruutu, assisted by Mikko Koivu, at 7:14 of the third period. Finland then delivered a crushing blow to Slovakia's medal hopes when Ruuttu scored again off the rush -- blasting a shot past the stick side of Jaroslav Halak at 10:26
Gaborik finished the game with a team-leading five shots on goal shot in a remarkable 21:36 of ice time, the most ice time for any forward in the game.