U.S. takes early lead, beats Slovakia at worlds

Updated: May 3, 2007, 3:49 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

MYTISHCHI, Russia -- Boston Bruins teammates Brandon Bochenski and Phil Kessel each had a goal and an assist Thursday to lift the United States over Slovakia 4-2 in Group F at the hockey world championships.

In Moscow, Chicago Blackhawks center Tuomo Ruutu scored the winner in the third period and Finland beat Switzerland 2-0 in Group E.

Also in Moscow, Johan Davidsson scored twice to lead Sweden to a 5-2 win over Denmark.

Slovakia pressured the United States early in the opening period, outshooting the Americans 18-7. Strong goaltending by the Carolina Hurricanes' John Grahame, who finished with 29 saves, prevented Slovakia from converting.

"We got into some penalty trouble early and our goaltender made some timely saves for us," U.S. coach Mike Sullivan told reporters. "[Grahame] was the key for us early, giving us a chance to get into the hockey game."

The United States scored first 8:17 in when Hurricanes defenseman Andrew Hutchinson sent a slap shot from inside the blue line that beat Slovakia goaltender Karol Krizan. The Americans were down a man when they went up 2-0 after St. Louis Blues center David Backes stole the puck and skated down to backhand a high shot past Krizan at 12:27.

Slovakia answered 41 seconds later when Marek Uram made a perfect pass to Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who flicked it past Grahame at point-blank range.

Kessel scored 4:52 into the second period to put the United States ahead 3-1. Bochenski backhanded in his own rebound on the power play during a goalmouth scramble at 12:37.

Minnesota Wild winger Marian Gaborik beat Grahame one-on-one for Slovakia's other goal.

"You've always got to believe in yourself and the team and we definitely think we have a chance at a medal and good shot at the gold," said Grahame.

"You've got to be positive and you have to be confident going into something like this. I think our confidence is growing each game."

The United States faces Germany on Saturday, when the Slovaks will take on the Czechs.

Ruutu scored for Finland when he picked up a rebound and tapped it between the pads of Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller at 11:37 of the third period.

Finland captain and Florida Panthers forward Ville Peltonen added an empty-net goal in the final minute.

Atlanta Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves for Finland.

Finland's plays Italy on Saturday, and Switzerland takes on Denmark.

For Sweden, Davidsson helped ensure the defending champions remained unbeaten.

The Danes jumped to a surprise 2-0 lead within the first seven minutes, but the world and Olympic champions restored order by the end of the first period thanks to two powerplay goals from Kenny Jonsson and Johan Akerman.

Davidsson added another goal midway through the second period after a goa-lmouth scramble to put the Swedes ahead 3-2.

Magnus Johansson made it 4-2 at 17:23 of the third period after the Danes gave the puck away in the neutral zone. Davidsson sealed Sweden's victory with an empty-net goal in the final seconds.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.