MYTISCHI, Russia (AP) _ St. Louis Blues forward Lee Stempniak
had a goal and an assist Friday to lead the United States past
Austria 6-2 in the preliminary round Group B match at the Hockey
In Moscow, Timo Parssinen scored two power play goals in the
second period as Finland opened with a 5-0 win over Ukraine.
``I thought it was critical that we get off to a good start,"
U.S. coach Mike Sullivan said. ``Certainly, if you can win the
first game it takes a little bit of pressure off as far as your
ability to advance in this tournament.
``When you leave it up to chance or one game, it get difficult
because you can run into a hot goaltender or something. I
definitely reiterated to our players that this was a very, very
important game for us."
On Sunday, the U.S. team faces Belarus and Austria plays 2006
silver medalists the Czech Republic.
The United States is seeking its first medal since winning
bronze at Prague in 2004. At the last Moscow worlds in 1986, the
U.S. team lost in the preliminary round robin but avoided
Boston Bruins forward Phil Kessel, who helped the United States
win world junior gold in 2005, scored first less than two minutes
into the contest, coming out from behind the net to fire the puck
over Reinhard Divis' glove.
The Oilers' Tobias Petersen doubled the score at 10:22 when the
puck bounced off his skate and in Divis' five-hole. Raimund Divis
finally put Austria on the board at 14:51, but Blues forward Lee
Stempniak converted a two-man powerplay less than three minutes
later to restore the two-goal lead.
Chris Clark of the Washington Capitals scored 24 seconds into
the following period to make it 4-1. But Austria's Oliver Setzinger
closed out the second-period scoring at 10:51 to narrow the gap.
Erik Cole and Brandon Bochenski put the game out of reach, each
scoring in the final session.
``We needed to get one under our belt and we did," Nashville
Predators defenseman Ryan Suter said. ``We just want to win, and
winning by the score we did was a bonus. We had it on them in the
first period and then they turned it on a bit at the end of the
second period. Hopefully, we can get another one on Sunday."
``It's pretty hard to play catch-up hockey with Team USA. They
scored when they had to, early in every period," Austria coach Jim
Boni said. ``But we have to stay positive. We played a team full of
skilled NHL players, a team that can contend for a medal. We're
16th in the world.
``Our goal is not to go down. It's going to be even tougher
against the Czechs."
In Moscow, Parssinen deflected from the point a shot by Petteri
Nummmelin at 7:18 of the second period to give Finland a 3-0 lead.
He scored again on a 5-on-3 six minutes later when he picked up
a rebound and tucked it behind Ukraine goaltender Igor Karpenko on
Sean Bergenheim also scored for Finland in the second and Petri
Kontiola completed the scoring with a power play goal midway
through the third.
Finland took a 1-0 lead at 12:07 of the first period.
Ville Peltonen of the Florida Panthers fed Pekka Saravo, who
beat Karpenko with a slap shot from the high slot.
Fredrik Norrena, playing in place of the injured Antero
Niittymaki, faced little pressure but made several key saves in the
third period to preserve the shutout.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)