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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Needs More Than Acrobatics to Stay in Running

GJOVIK, Norway -- If acrobatics were an Olympic sport, U.S. hockey players would have already clinched a place on the podium.


Whether they will win a medal in the hockey tournament is less certain.


Teetering toward a loss to Slovakia and likely elimination from medal contention Tuesday, the United States needed a series of contortions and two favorable calls to keep its balancing act aloft. Finally, John Lilley's goal from a sharp angle on the right wing eluded goaltender Eduard Hartmann with 4:07 left, forging a 3-3 tie that was eerily like Saturday's 4-4 draw with France.


In each of its games, the U.S. team faced a lesser opponent that rode emotion and a sound game plan to unexpected heights. And in each game, only a late and potentially stoppable goal kept the Americans undefeated. The ties leave the United States and Slovakia sharing third place in Group B, two points behind Canada (2-0) and one behind Sweden (1-0-1).


"We must be somewhat of a high-wire act." U.S. Coach Tim Taylor said, smiling in relief.


"I'm very proud of the way we've come back from two-goal deficits in two consecutive games. It shows we have a lot of heart. The thing we have to work on in general is not putting ourselves in that position. Youthful enthusiasm is one of our strengths and it has to be there the whole game. You can't just rely on it at the end."


Nor can they rely on the kinds of breaks they got Tuesday.


Slovakia had two goals disallowed and was forced to play short-handed for 13:45, including a stretch in the third period when Peter Stastny was assessed a five-minute penalty for high-sticking Craig Johnson and two more minutes for punching Peter Ferraro. After being scoreless on seven power plays against France and five against Slovakia, the United States finally capitalized on its advantage and cut the deficit to 3-2 when Peter Ciavaglia parked himself by the right post and converted Mark Beaufait's pass at 14:23.


In the other late game Tuesday, Canada charged through the easiest part of its Olympic ice hockey schedule without a hitch. They allowed France only 10 shots in a 3-1 victory, after beating Italy 7-2 in its opener, making Canada the only team with two victories in the six-team Pool B.


Earlier, Sweden beat Italy 4-1 after perking up in the third period, when it outshot the Italians 16-5 and scored two goals in the first four minutes.


Four of the six teams in each of the two pools advance to the quarterfinals after five preliminary games.


With the fourth-seeded Canadians now facing the hard part of their preliminary-round schedule, coach Tom Renney said, "We're confident.I don't think we're arrogant."


Todd Hlushko scored the first two goals and Todd Warriner made it 3-0 after two periods in which Canada outshot France 24-3. Benoit Laporte scored for France early in the third period.