USA opens with slim 3-2 OT win over Finland at World Junior Championship

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By Mackenzie Liddell

Nick Bjugstad scored the overtime winner and Team USA averted a disastrous start to their world junior title defense with a 3-2 win over Finland Sunday night in Buffalo, N.Y.

Justin Faulk and Jason Zucker also scored for the Americans (1-0) in front of a shocked and subdued crowd at HSBC Arena.

Joonas Nattinen and Iiro Pakarinen replied for Finland (0-1), which dominated the play for long stretches of the game.

American Jack Campbell was the busier of the two goaltenders, making 32 saves for the victory. Finnish netminder Joni Ortio was solid on the other end, stopping 27 shots including several of the highlight reel variety.

After a sluggish start to the game the U.S. had the best chance to get on the board first, as Zucker collected a Jerry D’Amigo pass on a shorthanded two-on-one but was unable to slide it past Ortio’s outstretched pad.

But persistency paid off as the Americans took advantage of Finland’s undisciplined play later in the period.

With 1:06 remaining in the first and Teemu Pulkinnen off for hooking, Faulk blasted a one-timer through a screen and past Ortio to put the Americans up 1-0 heading into the second.

After the teams exchanged chances in the early stages of the second, the Finns took control of the play midway through the period.

At the 13:50 mark, Finnish forward Toni Rajala forced a turnover behind the American goal and slid it to Nattinen who was uncovered in the slot and he snapped it past Campbell to tie the game at one.

It didn’t take long for the Americans to respond, however, as Zucker took advantage of Tommi Kivisto’s turnover and ripped a wrist shot over Ortio’s shoulder to put the Americans back on top only 1:18 after Finland’s tying marker.

The Americans came out flying in the third and looked to jump out to a 3-1 lead, but Jeremy Morin had his goal called off after it was ruled Bjugstad was in the crease.

It was a costly call as Finland managed to hang around and weather the storm, setting the stage for Pakarinen’s heroics.

At 12:59 of the third, Pakarinen drove past the American defense and picked up a juicy rebound off Erik Haula’s wrister, beating a sprawled out Campbell to even things at two.

The crowd was stunned momentarily but awoke shortly after as Kyle Palmieri turned Rasmus Rissanen inside out, dragging the puck between his own legs and out waiting Ortio only to shoot it off the side of the open net.

Team USA picked up their confidence level after Palmieri’s solo effort and carried it over to the extra frame.

With 1:53 remaining in overtime, Bjugstad streaked down the left wing and powered a wrist shot through Ortio to end the game.

Team USA finished 1-for-4 on the power play, while Finland was unable to capitalize on its lone opportunity.

The Americans will be back in action on Tuesday in a match against Slovakia at 8 p.m. ET. Finland will have to regroup quickly as they kick off Tuesday’s action against Switzerland (1-0) at 12:30 p.m.


• American forwards Brock Nelson and Jeremy Morin left the game in the third period due to injury and did not return.

• Joni Ortio was named Finland’s player of the game while his counterpart Jack Campbell took home the honor for the U.S.



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