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Meeting Of Two Potential No. 1 NHL Draft Picks Ends In U.S. Falling, 3-2, To Finland

By Craig Bohnert | May 09, 2016, 5:04 p.m. (ET)

(L-R) Patrik Laine of Finland and Auston Matthews skate next to each other during the preliminary round at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on May 9, 2016 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

While the host nation Russia celebrated its Victory Day national holiday, recognizing the day Nazi Germany capitulated in World War II, it was Finland that celebrated a 3-2 win over the United States at the 2016 IIHF Men’s Ice Hockey World Championships Monday afternoon in St. Petersburg.

The result matched the outcome of an exhibition between the two teams nearly one-week prior on May 3. That version’s overtime affair whetted already keen interest in the match, which featured a head-to-head matchup between two potential No. 1 picks in next month’s NHL draft in Auston Matthews for the United States and Finland’s Patrik Laine.

The Finns entered the game at the top of Group B with a 2-0 record and were eager to maintain their position at the top of the table. A pair of quick strikes in transitional situations staked Finland to a 2-0 lead in the first 12 minutes. Mikko Koivu opened the scoring with 10:44 left in the first, scoring over U.S. goalkeeper Mike Condon’s glove. The play began when Sebastian Aho pilfered the puck from an American defenseman behind the net and fed it to Mikael Granlund, who then dished it to his Minnesota Wild teammate Koivu for the goal.

Less than three minutes later Antti Pihlstrom found the same spot over Condon’s glove on a counterattack goal, making the score 2-0 with 7:56 left in the period.

Frank Vatrano sparked U.S. hopes less than two minutes later. Matthews took the puck from Laine and fed Vatrano in the U.S. defensive third, sending the Boston Bruins forward charging up the ice. His long shot from near the top of the left face-off circle beat Mikko Koskinen on the blocker side for a 2-1 score at 6:15 before the first intermission.

Although the U.S. had three power plays in the second period (to one for Finland), the Americans were stymied by the Finns’ short-handed defense and were credited with only five shots in the period.

The U.S. drew even just a minute into the third period when Connor Murphy tallied from the left spot to tie things up at 2-2 with 19:07 minutes remaining, causing some observers to wonder if, like the exhibition game six days prior, this contest also would go into overtime.

An opportunity was presented to the Finns with 16:04 on the clock when Patrick Maroon was whistled for tripping. Finland took advantage of the power play when Leo Komarov tucked the puck in behind Condon for the winning goal with 15:44 remaining.

Now 1-2 in Group B play, the U.S. will have two days off before meeting France on Thursday, May 12. It will begin a stretch that will have the Americans skating three games in four days, with Hungary on tap May 13 and Germany May 15. All three games will begin at 9:15 a.m. ET. France opened the tournament with a 3-2 overtime win against Germany, then fell to Slovakia 5-1.