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Olympic Ice Hockey

Game blog: Canada smothers Team USA, 1-0, to reach gold medal game

Photo: Matt Slocum/AP

Goalie Jonathan Quick played valiantly, but all it took was a deflected goal by Jamie Benn (center) to beat Team USA.

FINAL SCORE: Canada 1, USA 0 

Team Canada coach Mike Babcock said before the tournament that Canada's defense would lead the way. Turns out he knew what he was talkinga about.

Team USA came into Friday's Olympic semifinal as the highest scoring team in Sochi, but Canada's airtight defense obliterated that advantage in a tense, fast-paced 1-0 win for the defending champs.
 
Jamie Benn scored the game's only goal, deflecting a Jay Bouwmeester shot past Jonathan Quick 1:41 into the second period.
 
It was the second heart-breaking loss to their arch-rivals in two days for Team USA, but unlike the women's side that was beaten 3-2 in overtime in Thursday's gold-medal contest, this game was nowhere near as close as the score suggests.

The Americans got a phenomenal 36-save performance from Quick, but failed to match the intensity, speed, creativity or defensive commitment of the Canadian forwards.  As a result, they couldn't dictate the pace of the game as they had while winning their first four matches of the tournament and spent most of the game chasing the play. And while they managed to test Canada's Carey Price several times over the course of the game, they never could sustain any pressure in the attack zone. Canada's defense, which now has allowed just three goals through five games, was ferocious, dominating the middle of the ice and forcing the Americans to settle for a single chance before turning the puck over and driving play the other way.  Dan Bylsma pushed some buttons late, but couldn't make the necessary adjustments to break through the Canadian line
 
Team USA will settle for now play Finland on Saturday for the bronze medal. Canada goes on to play Sweden for the gold on Sunday. We will be live blogging both games.

 

Here's how the game played out live:

2:12: Joe Pavelski just 2/12 on the draw. Meanwhile, Matt Duchene goes 7/9. Nice job filling in.

2:11: Have to feel for Jonathan Quick, who has to wonder what it's like to get some goal support when it matters. He was brilliant today, beaten only by a remarkable deflection by Jamie Benn, and kept Team USA in the game long after it was apparent that they didn't have it going. At the other end of the ice, Carey Price answered every question about the quality of Canadian goaltending. That save on Parise's deflection in the second was big at the time and massive in hindsight. This was easily his best, most controlled game of the tournament and no matter what happens against Sweden, he's proven that he can handle the pressure of the international stage.
 
Here's a look at Quick's big stop on Chris Kunitz to keep it close late:
 

GIF: Another look at the two big Kunitz chances on Twitpic

2:09: Team USA will play for bronze against Finland on Saturday. Tough loss for the Americans, but honestly, this wasn't their day. They never were able to establish any sort of presence in the attack zone as Canada's defense controlled the middle of the ice.

Third period

2:08: And that's it! Team USA fails to test Price with the extra man. Canada goes for Gold!

2:07: Quick out of the net with 54 seconds to go

2:06: A diving Carlson breaks up a clear Canadian two-on-one... Two minutes to go...

2:05: Three minutes to go ...

2:04: Looks like the ice quality is one step above mush. The puck is bouncing wildly out there.

2:03: Wheeler out for his third shift after sitting out the first two periods. Bylsma obviously looking for his speed and heavy shot to add some spark to the lineup. A modern-day Petr Klima, maybe?

2:01: Six minutes to go. Kunitz robbed by Quick and then fires the rebound wide. That could have been church for Team USA.

12:57: A Toews broken stick, a couple of bobbled passes and two huge blocks by Ryan Callahan keep this a one-goal game. Team USA back to full strength.

GIF: Ryan Callahan showing some serious testicular fortitude on Twitpic

1:55: Phil Kessel to the box for hauling down Chris Kunitz trying to prevent a two-on-one at 9:56 of the third.

GIF: Kunitz sells the hooking call on Kesel on Twitpic

1:54: Wheeler just played his first shift of the game for Team USA with the third period nearing the midway point. Neither Martin St. Louis nor Dan Hamhuis have seen the ice for Team Canada.

1:52: Second consecutive shift for the Americans to be pinned in their own zone. Defense has to be getting tired from chasing the puck.

1:53: Another dominant shift by the Crosby line, but they can't beat Quick. As frustrating as this has been for Team USA as they fail to find traction, it remains a one-shot game.

GIF: Zach Parise with a chance, fires it right into chest of ... on Twitpic

1:51: Oshie saves Team USA with a sliding block, denying a wide open Rick Nash.

1:49: Team USA with its best chance of the period as Kessel finds JVR at the side of the net for a quick wrister. Price stands tall to keep the score 1-0 Canada.

1:46: Crosby and Bergeron toying with the Americans on that shift but can't get it past Quick.  Canada continues to dictate the pace.

1:41: Pacioretty now playing with Backes and Callahan for Team USA. Better hands than Dustin Brown.

1:39: The puck drops on the third period.

1:31: Advanced stat advocates will say that getting pucks deep isn't as effective as carrying the puck into the zone and maintaining possession, but if the Claude Julien-led Canadian defense continues to muck up their entries, they may not have any choice.

1:29: Team USA has been guilty of chasing the game most of the night, but they can take some inspiration from yesterday's American loss. It's not over until the fat lady sings.

1:28: Memo to future Team Canada coaches: Save yourself the grief and pencil Patrice Bergeron onto Sidney Crosby's line right from the start. They get along just fine.

1:25: Forty minutes are in the books. Canada outshoots Team USA 12-11 in that frame and gets the only goal of the period to take a tenuous 1-0 lead into the third.

Second period

1:23: Paul Stastny jamming away at a rebound, sends puck through Price's legs and through the crease just clear of the right post. 1:08 to go in the second now.

GIF: Paul Stastny just misses a chance in front on Twitpic

1:22: Team Canada back to full strength. Three shots for Team USA on that PP, but no high-end chances.

1:19: Team USA to the power play after Chris Kunitz gets the hook with 4:37 left in the second. Another in a long list of big moments for the Americans.

GIF: Kunitz slashes Quick, takes spectacular dive on Twitpic

1:15: Jonathan Quick with maybe his best stop of the game. Corey Perry steals it from Orpik in the corner, finds Benn alone to the left of Quick who makes a sprawling stop. Canada completely dictating the pace and tone of this game right now. Time for the Meat Line to assert itself with a big shift.

GIF: Corey Perry takeaway sets up a Jamie Benn chance. Robbed... on Twitpic

1:09: We're at the midway point of the period. Canada still with the better of the play ... with the defense setting the tone. Shots 20-16 CAN.

1:05: Much better look to that power play for the Americans. Kept the puck in the Canadian zone for more than 90 seconds and while they were held primarily to outside, they managed to move it to the middle a couple times near the end of the advantage. Something to build on for their next chance.

1:03: Back to even strength. Two shots for Team USA on that power play.

1:01: Big chance for Team USA. Ryan Getzlaf to the box for high sticking on Patrick Kane.

12:59: Nine texts in 60 seconds from folks reminding me that I didn't like the selection of Benn to Team Canada...

12:57: TEAM CANADA GOAL!  Jamie Benn with a behind the back pass to Bouwmeester, whose wrister is tipped out front by Benn. 1-0 Canada.

GIF: Jamie Benn deflects a Jay Bouwmeester pass past Jon Quic... on Twitpic

12:54: Duncan Keith sprawls out in front of Price to break up an American two-on-one chance.

12:53: The second period is underway.

12:47: Patrice Bergeron with four shots for Canada. Sidney Crosby leads the forwards with 6:23. That duo was clicking--Bergeron's backhand chance that Quick batted away with his blocker was one of Canada's best.

12:45: Zach Parise leads Team USA with four shots and 7:15 of ice. His line, finally, was America's most dangerous. No surprise that Ryan Suter led the D with 8:04.

12:42: One player who really stood out to me that period? Of all people, Rick Nash. Didn't do anything offensively, but his commitment away from the puck was outstanding. Disrupted four American possessions in Canada's zone.

First period

12:39: And that's the end of a fast, fierce first period. Canada with the better of the play, and a 16-11 edge in shots.

12:36: Canada back to full strength. No shots for Team USA on the PP. Had some good zone entries, but couldn't get set up.

12:33: Patrick Marleau to the box for holding USA's Joe Pavelski. 4:02 left in the first.

12:30: Three shots for Canada on that power play. Quick showing why Bylsma called his number. Looks like he's in Conn Smythe form.

12:28: Team USA back to full strength.  Seven minutes to go in the first.

12:27: Canada sends out Doughty, Weber, Toews, Getlaf and Perry

12:26: Ryan Suter goes to the box for holding the stick of Jeff Carter. Team Canada with the first power play opportunity of the game.

12:24: Man, Kessel is feeling it early. Best legs on Team USA so far.

12:21: After a dull chess match in the earlier game, this one is all offense. great pace and multiple opportunities for both teams. Shots 9-8 Team USA.

12:19: Ryan McDonagh sends a clearing attempt directly at Quick....blood pressures spike across America.

12:17: Crosby continues to generate chances for Team Canada--that pass to Sharp was obscene--but the results aren't coming. Nearly eight minutes in, still no score.

12:16: First sustained pressure for Team USA. Kesler/Kane/Parise line generates several chances as Canada scrambles around its zone. Corey Perry heads to the bench slowly after blocking a shot.

12:14: John Carlson all alone in the high slot off a terrific feed from Kessel...Price makes a tough stop through traffic.

GIF: Price robs Carlson with the glove on Twitpic

12:13: Duncan Keith just beaten to the outside for the second time in the first five minutes. Does Team USA know something?

12:10: Canada already showing more determination to get to the middle of the ice, allowing them to generate three decent scoring chances so far.

12:09: Not sure how this works, but Canada appears to have last change despite being the lower seed.

12:08: Drew Doughty dances end-to-end before getting off a slick wrister. Jonathan Quick snags it under his arm.

12:06: Just over a minute in and Canada's turned the puck over three times. Early nerves very apparent.

GIF: Carey Price denies an early chance from Phil Kessel on Twitpic

12:06: Kessel on a partial break down the right wing...Price with the stop.

12:05: And here we go...opening faceoff goes to Canada

11:45: Welcome to our live coverage of today's USA-Canada showdown (Noon, NBCSN, CBC) for the right to advance to Sunday's gold medal game against Sweden. Team USA has the higher seed (second) and so they are considered the home team for today's game. That means one key advantage: last line change. Be interesting to watch how Dan Bylsma works the matchups.

Here are five things to watch for today:
 
1. Canada's defense: Much has been made of American's tournament-leading firepower, but the Canadians have allowed just three goals total through four games. This group is bigger, quicker and more experienced than the six that Team USA will rely on.
 
2. Show up on time: Team USA has made a habit in this tournament out of scoring the first goal before most fans have found their seats. They'll be looking for another quick start to set Canada back on its heels.
 
3. The blue paint: Both sides will look to establish a physical presence down low to disrupt the sightlines of the goaltenders, but international rules prevent players from entering the goal crease unless the puck precedes them. Team that best skirts that rule could wind up with the break they need to turn this one in their favor.
 
4. The Meat Line: The trio of David Backes, Dustin Brown and Ryan Callahan brings a level of heavy-metal physicality that Team Canada can't match.

5. Sid: Four games. Plenty of chances. No goals. It's time.

Team USA lines (per USA Hockey). Note that Paul Martin is out with a hand injury. Justin Faulk fills his spot in the lineup, but John Carlson takes his spot alongside Brooks Orpik on the second shutdown pairing:

Brown-Backes-Callahan 
Parise-Kesler-Kane
van Riemsdyk-Pavelski-Kessel
Pacioretty-Stastny-Oshie
Wheeler

Suter-McDonagh
Fowler-Shattenkirk
Orpik-Carlson
Faulk

Quick
Miller

Team Canada's lines. The only change from the group that beat Latvia in the quarters is Matt Duchene in to replace the injured John Tavares:

Kunitz-Crosby-Bergeron
Marleau-Toews-Carter
Benn-Getzlaf-Perry
Sharp-Duchene-Nash
St. Louis
 
Keith-Weber
Vlasic-Doughty
Bouwmeester-Pietrangelo
Hamhuis
 
Price

Luongo

Officials: Kelly Sutherland and Brad Meier are today's referees. Sutherland is Canadian, Meier is American.

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