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Kerry Collins, Published April 12 2009

USA thwarts rally: Americans nearly squander four-goal lead to win by 1

If the United States needed to learn a lesson about how complacency is a bad habit, Finland provided the lesson on Saturday.

After taking a four-goal lead into the third period, Team USA survived a scare to earn a 4-3 victory over the Finns at Urban Plains Center.

“We knew they had talent, but I think we gave up a little bit with the big lead,” said Team USA’s Jerry D’Amigo, who had a goal and an assist. “You’ve got to give them credit for battling back.”

Chris Brown scored with 55 seconds left in the second period for a 4-0 U.S. lead that looked like icing on the cake going into the second intermission.

“At the time, you don’t think it’s that big of a goal, and earlier we hit a cross bar that could’ve made it five,” U.S. coach Ron Rolston said. “But you don’t want to give up a lead like that.

“They didn’t quit.”

Finland’s Mikael Granlund lit the lamp just 12 seconds into the third to start the rally. Then Teemu Pulkkinen and Erik Haula scored late goals just 1:28 apart to close the gap to a goal.

“We were four goals behind, so of course we had to score quickly,” Finland coach Mika Marttila said through a translator. “But it’s very difficult to come back when a team is ahead like that.

“We tried to, but didn’t succeed.”

Adam Murray made 36 saves for the United States, and hindsight showed he saved the game way back in the first period.

With roughly three minutes left in the opening stanza, Murray made a spectacular blocker save while rolling to his left, and then smothered the puck on a rebound chance at the right post.

The save brought the 3,166 fans in attendance to their feet.

“For our team at that point, that was something we really needed because they had all of the momentum,” Rolston said. “That got the crowd back into it, and got our bench back into it.

“That was as big a turning point as any at the time he made that save.”

The victory puts the United States in the driver’s seat of Pool B, as they are the only unbeaten remaining in the group.

The Americans face Slovakia at 7:30 p.m. Monday and close out pool play on Tuesday against Russia. Both games are at the Urban Plains Center.

“This was a good win for us because it’s another three points, but we’re here to win every game,” D’Amigo said. “But we’ve got Slovakia and Russia left, so it’s not getting any easier.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, US, Treais (Samuelsson, Bourque), 6:02. 2, US, D’Amigo (Lynch), 9:54.

SECOND PERIOD: 3, US, Lynch (D’Amigo), 32:46. 4, US, Brown (Lynch, Zucker), 39:05.

THIRD PERIOD: 5, F, Granlund (Rajala, Vatanen), 40:12. 6, F, Pulkkinen (Nattinen), 14:58. 7, F, Haula (Nattinen, Pulkkinen), 56:26.

SAVES: F, Ortio 10-9-8—27. US, Murray 9-10-17—36.

A: 3,166.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548.

Collins’ blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com