February 18, 2010

5:24 pm ET: Lots to build on from this one, including a great performance from Ryan Miller, nice play on the blueline from Ryan Suter and Brian Rafalski, and scoring from up and down the lineup. Still, Ron Wilson has a lot of work to do, especially with the team's defensive coverage in the offensive zone. Team USA got away with several mistakes today because the Norwegians simply didn't have the finishing touch to make them pay. That won't be a problem for the opposition the rest of the way. If the defense is going to continue pinching (and at this point, there's no reason to think it won't) then the third forward has to do a better job of providing support.

That's it for now. We'll be back for Sunday's Pool A round-robin finale when Team USA takes on Team Canada. Thanks for stopping by.

5:17 pm ET: Final score, 6-1 Team USA. Shots were 39-11 for the game, 16-2 for the third period. This one will look like a rout in the books, but the final result was in doubt until the closing minutes.

5:14 pm ET: GAME OVER -- USA 6, Norway 1

5:12 pm ET: GOAL USA. BRIAN RAFALSKI again. Point blast off another face-off win, this one by Joe Pavelski. He draws it back to Ryan Suter, goes to the net and provides a perfect screen for the shot that sails over the shoulder of Grotnes. 6-1 USA.

5:11 pm ET: One minute to play and the Americans aren't resorting to defensive mode. Continue to generate pressure down low.

5:10 pm ET: USA GOAL -- BRIAN RAFALSKI on the power play. Three Americans battle two Norwegians in the corner. Zach Parise comes out with the puck and finds Rafalski cruising in from the point. It's now 5-1 US with less than three minutes to go.

5:09 pm ET: POWER PLAY USA. Tommy Jakobsen high sticks Bobby Ryan behind the Norwegian net. Americans to the power play with less than four minutes to play in a 4-1 game.

5:08 pm ET: Ryan Miller gets an assist on the Malone goal. A long pass from Pavelskil sends Kessel clear of the defense and in alone on Grotnes. He tried to go backhand through the legs but was stymied.

5:04 pm ET: USA GOAL - RYAN MALONE, USA 4-1 That was a great read by Ryan Miller. The Norwegians were exhausted after a great shift by the ramped Stastny unit. They tried to ice it and get a line change, but Miller made a heads up play, got the puck out to Jack Johnson. His shot was stopped, but Malone buried the rebound into the empty side.

5:03 pm ET: Less than six minutes to go, still 3-1. Americans generating some pressure but not getting any high-quality chances on Grotnes. Jamie Langenbrunner now playing with Paul Stastny and Zach Parise.

5:01 pm ET: Under 10 minutes to go. Another three-on-two odd man rush for the Norwegians. Tore Vikingstad shoots high. Jack Johnson was in too deep on the forecheck...again.

4:58 pm ET: Nice job by Chris Drury, winning a battle along the boards to set up Bobby Ryan in the slot. Pal Grotnes stands tall in net, and it's still 3-1.

4:57 pm ET: There are 12 minutes left. Norway continues to match the Americans shift for shift, but they're still down two goals. They need to start opening up a bit in order to create some offense.

4:56 pm ET: I highlighted Mats Zuccarello Aasen in my pre-tournament piece and he has not disappointed. He's Spud Webb-small, but he's really stood out with his skills and his compete level in this game. He's undrafted, so it wouldn't be a surprise to hear his name mentioned as a possible offseason signing.

4:53 pm ET: Turnover by Phil Kessel in the neutral zone...first time I've noticed him since that first period goal.

4:51 pm ET: Norway's power play is over, one shot but they created a couple of opportunities. American defense continues to make ill-timed pinches, though.

4:50 pm ET: Two-on-one chance for Team USA after a Norwegian defender fumbles with the puck. Failed to create a shot after Ryan Kesler fails to handle the cross-ice feed.

4:48 pm ET: Nice shot through traffic by Mats Tryg. No problem for Ryan Miller.

4:46 pm ET: PENALTY USA. Call on Jack Johnson, who goes to the box for hauling down Patrick Thoresen. Another *really* weak call. If that's an example of Thoresen's leg strength, it's no wonder he couldn't stick in the NHL.

4:45 pm ET: Norway actually wins a defensive zone draw. Might have been the first time this afternoon!

4:45 pm ET: Third period is underway. A couple of quick stops by Pal Grotnes, the last one on Patrick Kane. He's really feeling it right now. Looking huge between the pipes.

4:40 pm ET: Trying to figure out what surprises me more: the fact that Ryan Miller had to be better than Pal Grotnes in the second, or that the American forwards aren't dominating a bunch of Smurfs in red. This shouldn't be about chemistry. The skill differential here is off the charts, but in terms of execution and effort, the game is tilting in favor of Norway. Should be a fun third. We're about to get underway.

4:27 pm ET: PERIOD OVER. 3-1 for Team USA. Have to say, though, if that period went to the judges, they'd all hand it to Norway. Shots were 8-7 for the U.S. and the Norwegians held their own throughout. Probably generated the better chances, too. It's inexplicable how the Americans aren't making more of their size and speed advantage.

4:26 pm ET:Jonas Anderson carries it across the blueline and launches a shot that smacks Ryan Miller in the mask. He's ok. Last minute of play.

4:25 pm ET: Americans are doing a nice job crowding the front of Pal Grotnes' crease, but they're not getting accurate shots from the point to take advantage of their positioning.

4:23 pm ET: Great stop by Ryan Miller on a deflection five feet out off the stick of Martin Roymark. Norway's feeling it right now. Just over three minutes left in the second period and it feels like this game is about to change direction.

4:21 pm ET:Mats Zuccarello Aasen with another decent chance, a wrister from the top of the circle. Ryan Miller hasn't had much action, but most of the stops he's made have been pretty salty.

4:19 pm ET: Erik and Jack Johnson on the points now for the PP. Look for them to play it a little more conservatively.

4:17 pm ET: Ryan Suter leads the play and almost nets one...but again, four Americans down low. Where's the support on the back end? How many more times do they need to get burned before they abandon this approach?

4:14 pm ET: PENALTY NORWAY. Americans back on the power play.

4:13 pm ET: We're 11 minutes into the second and Norway is actually outshooting the U.S. 4-3.

4:12 pm ET: That was an unassisted goal for Holtet and a huge boost for Norway. Looked like they were really sagging under the pressure early in the period.

4:08 pm ET: NORWAY GOAL -- Marius Holtet. USA 3-1. Shorthanded. Another two-on-one created when Jamie Langenbrunner came down low to try to work a back door play. He fanned, no one covered his point and the Norwegians were off to the races. Another inexcusable defensive breakdown.

4:08 pm ET: PENALTY NORWAY. Tore Vikingstad hauls down Brian Rafalski in the offensive zone. Completely brain dead move to put the Americans on the PP.

4:08 pm ET: Another face-off win for Ryan Kesler. Don't think he's lost one all afternoon.

4:05 pm ET: Another two-on-one for Norway. Jack Johnson's mistake again as he tries to land a hit at the blueline and gets caught in the offensive end. Tore Vikingstad gets a decent shot off, but Miller handles it with no difficulty.

4:02 pm ET:USA GOAL -- PATRICK KANE: 3-0 USA. Kane works the give-and-go at the blueline. Zach Parise takes initial shot on Grotnes, Kane beats his cover to the rebound and buries in into the empty right side. That play was all about his speed.

4:01 pm ET: Penalty over, no shots for Norway but MatsZuccarello Aasen launches a shot through the legs of Tim Gleason for a nice chance right after the PP ended. Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan teamed up on the first PK unit. The two play together on the PK with the Rangers and their familiarity shows early on. Norway hasn't gotten a sniff of the American zone.

3:59 pm ET: PENALTY -- DAVIE BACKES. High sticking. First look at the Norwegian power play. They were 0-5 against Canada. Kind of a cheap call against Backes, but so was the last penalty against Norway.

3:56 pm ET: Another face-off win for the Americans. They're completely dominating the circle.

3:55 pm ET: Second period underway. There it is: Dustin Brown skating with Paul Stastny and Patrick Kane.

3:54 pm ET: Ryan Suter led all American skaters with 6:59 of ice time. Kept it safe and simple in that period...exactly what Ron Wilson expects of his blueliners in this game.

3:52 pm ET: Zach Parise was the most noticeable forward in the first period, but there's still no sign of any chemistry developing with Paul Stastny and Patrick Kane. I said it before, I'll say it again -- Ron Wilson might want to move one of the big bodies to the top unit to add a little jam. David Backes has shown that he deserves the minutes with his physical work and playmaking skill. What are you waiting for, Ron?

3:44 pm ET: Have to wonder about the decision to use Jamie Langenbrunner on the point for the first power play unit. Sure, he provides a defensive conscience to the group, but he's not doing much to create opportunities for the attackers down low.

3:38 pm ET: PERIOD OVER. U.S. outshoots Norway 15-2...seems like a pretty fair indication of how this period played out. Americans got some spectacular play out of the Pavelski line, easily their best unit so far today.

3:37 pm ET: First minute of the power play spent entirely in the Norwegian zone but the U.S. fails to generate a shot....PP over...one shot on net for the U.S.

3:36 pm ET: Patrick Kane finally earns himself a little space with his speed. Crossed the blueline and sets up Brian Rafalski for a nice chance. Norway's Zuccarello Assen takes a penalty in the scrum out front to put the U.S. on the power play.

3:34 pm ET: Ryan Miller stones a two-on-one chance from Lars Erik Spets. Bad decision with the puck by Jack Johnson at center ice created the opportunity for Norway.

3:32 pm ET: Another solid chance for Zach Parise. He picks it up along the goal line and goes hard to the net, taking his shot right out front of Grotnes who was forced to make another tough stop. That's exactly what you want to see from the Americans--a willingness to drive the net.

3:30 pm ET: The Americans may not be the biggest team in the tournament, but they've got a size and strength advantage on the Norwegians and they're doing a solid job of exploiting it. They're winning all the battles along the boards and are having no trouble establishing position out front of Pal Grotnes.

3:27 pm ET: USA GOAL -- CHRIS DRURY 2-0 USA. Norway fails to clear a loose puck out along the boards. David Backes picks up puck at the blueline, throws it out front to Ryan Callahan who is stopped by Pal Grotnes. Drury picks up the rebound in the crease and chips it between his legs.

3:26 pm ET: Americans go to the crash line for the last 30 seconds of the PP. Dustin Brown-David Backes-Bobby Ryan didn't get much done. As penalty ends, MatsZuccarello Aasen tests Ryan Miller with a one timer from 15 feet out. Great stop by Miller who spent the first half of the period doing his taxes.

3:23 pm ET: Penalty to Norway, holding the stick on Tore Vikingstad. US on the power play. Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Rafalski on the points with the No. 1 forward unit up front.

3:21 pm ET: Zach Parise stoned in close on a one-timer. That was his first real scoring chance of the tournament. He needs to establish a presence down low, create space for himself if that line is going to start chipping in.

3:18 pm ET: Norwegians got away with a lot of clutching and grabbing against the Canadians on Tuesday, but the Americans are moving too fast right now for them to get hold of them.

3:15 pm ET: Ryan Malone rings one off the crossbar on a deflection in tight. The Kessel/Pavelski/Malone line is flying right now.

3:14 pm ET: Americans controlling the play in the Norwegian zone. Isn't helping the Norwegians to freeze it -- Ryan Kesler keeps winning the offensive zone draws, giving control to the U.S.

3:13 pm ET: Phil Kessel was invisible in the first game but did a great job finding open ice at top speed near the blue line. Have to wonder how the Norwegian defenders lost track of him.

3:10 PM ET: USA GOAL -- PHIL KESSEL 1-0 USA at 2:41 of the first. Great transition play from Joe Pavelski at center ice, Kessel goes across his body and sends a laser over the shoulder of Pal Grotnes.

3:09 PM ET: Don't underestimate the difficulty for the Norwegians in terms of adapting their game to the smaller, NHL-sized ice. It's not like it is for the Swedes or Finns or Russians, many of whom play/played on it in the NHL at some point. This is a relatively new experience for most of the guys on this team and it showed in their timing and positioning in their opener against Canada.

3:05 PM ET: Red Wings farmhand Ole-Kristian Tollefsen back in the Norwegian lineup after missing the opener due to a family illness. Per-Age Skroder, one of the top scorers in the Swedish Elitserien and one of Norway's few offensive threats, is out for the tournament after injuring his ankle against Canada.

2:23 PM ET: Welcome to today's live blog of Team USA's preliminary round tilt against Norway. Coming off an 8-0 opening loss to the Canadians, the Norwegians aren't expected to provide much of a test for the Americans. Still, this is a critical step in the process if Team USA is to make any noise in this tournament.

Today's key? Get the first line in sync. The top trio of Paul Stastny between Zach Parise and Patrick Kane failed to get on the scoresheet in Tuesday's 3-1 opening win over the Swiss but, more to the point, they displayed little in the way of chemistry. This will be their last chance to make something happen as a group. If they can't get it going, look for coach Ron Wilson to experiment with his combinations.

Wilson has asked his players to be a little more selfish in this contest. Translation: stop looking for the pretty play and get the puck on the net. The Americans took just 24 shots against the Swiss. Fine for that game, but that effort won't cut it against the tournament's top goalies.

Finally, look for smarter decisions by the defenders. Too many ill-timed pinches turned into offensive opportunities for the Swiss, so expect the American blueliners to play a more conservative game positionally and try to create their opportunities through neutral zone turnovers.

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