After managing only two goals in consecutive losses, the U.S. men's hockey team broke out with three power-play scores, yet still fell 5-4 to Russia on Tuesday in a game that mattered only in the confidence department.
The Americans (1-3-1) were already locked into today's 11:30 a.m. quarterfinal matchup against Finland (5-0), which finished preliminary play as the top team in Group A. The United States is the fourth-place team from Group B.
The Russians play Canada at 2:30 p.m.
After scoring only nine goals in four games, the United States found its offense just as coach Peter Laviolette said his team would. This time, the Americans lacked defense and goaltending.
"I wouldn't say it's frustrating, it's more maddening than anything else," Laviolette said.
Brian Rolston, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez all scored man-advantage goals but the United States allowed as many goals to Russia as it did in the three previous games.
"A couple of bounces finally went our way," Gomez said. "That's what you need in these tournaments, the breaks. We got them, but so did the Russians."
Goalie Rick DiPietro got the night off; Robert Esche started in his place.
After struggling to get to loose pucks and put them in the net throughout the preliminary round, the United States finally converted some scoring opportunities, getting a rebound goal from Gionta and a tipped one from Gomez.
Gomez deflected in a shot five minutes into the third period to tie it at 3, but Russia's Alexander Ovechkin scored 4:55 later.
Erik Cole swung behind the net and stuffed a shot past Russia's backup goalie Maxim Sokolov at 10:38 to tie it at 4, But it took just another 1:14 for Russia to retake the lead for good as Alex Kovalev ripped a shot past Esche inside the left post.
"One of those games with very opportune goals," said Esche, a Philadelphia Flyer who made his Olympic debut. "I wasn't happy with that last goal. I think I was off my angle."
"I don't think that they're down," Laviolette said. "We just remain confident that we're going to win a hockey game."
CANADA 3, CZECH REPUBLIC 2: Tampa Bay's Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis each scored in a three-goal first period to help Canada end its scoring slump.
Canada finished third in Group A.
The Czechs, last year's world champions, finished last among the qualifiers and face undefeated Slovakia in a 3:30 p.m. quarterfinal.
Richards, St. Louis and Chris Pronger scored in a 12-minute span of the first to put the defending gold medalists up 3-0. Canada had been shut out for 129 minutes, 11 seconds before Richards scored on a wrist shot from the slot at 7:37 of the first.
St. Louis followed with a bad-angle shot from along the goal line that banked off Nashville Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun, who was pulled after the first. Pronger scored in the final minute of the period on a slap shot from the high slot following a long rebound.
The Czechs outshot Canada 26-8 over the final two periods and 33-16 overall while getting goals from the Lightning's Pavel Kubina and Petr Cajanek.
SLOVAKIA 3, SWEDEN 0: Peter Bondra, Marian Hossa and Radoslav Suchy each scored as unbeaten Slovakia shut out Sweden.
The Slovaks face the Czechs at 3:30 p.m. today when the medal round begins. Sweden faces Switzerland at 10:30 a.m.
Bondra, an Atlanta Thrashers star, scored late in the first period on a hard slap shot. Hossa, Bondra's NHL teammate, kicked the puck with his right skate to his stick and wristed a shot with Minnesota Wild defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist draped on him early in the third. Suchy of the Columbus Blue Jackets scored with 1:02 left.
FINLAND 2, GERMANY 0: Dallas Star Niko Kapanen and Montreal Canadien Saku Koivu scored for Finland (5-0).
The Finns beat Canada, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Italy and the Germans by a combined 19-2. Every win was by at least two goals.
SWITZERLAND 3, ITALY 3: Ivo Ruthemann scored on a giveaway with 3 1/2 minutes remaining and Switzerland escaped a major upset, tying host Italy 3-3 Tuesday to secure second place in its qualifying group.
The Swiss have been the most perplexing of the 12 teams in round-robin play, upsetting gold medal favorite Canada and the world champion Czech Republic only to tie non-qualifiers Germany and Italy in their final two Group A games.
"There was no point killing ourselves," forward Martin Pluss said. "We got a point so we should be happy. If we had used all our energy today, we would have no energy tomorrow."
KAZAKHSTAN 5, LATVIA 2: Latvia was done in by Kazakhstan's Yevgeniy Koreshkov, who scored two third-period goals. Sergey Alexandrov snapped a 2-2 tie with 7:27 left before Koreshkov put it away with goals 3:15 apart in the closing minutes.
U.S. sled grabs silver
ON THE TRACK: Blasting down the Alps in a shiny, dark American convertible, Shauna Rohbock won a silver medal in women's bobsled, ending an 0-for-Olympics stay for the U.S. sliding teams.
With roommate Valerie Fleming providing the push and applying the brakes, Rohbock completed her four runs just .71 seconds behind Germany's Sandra Kiriasis and Anja Schneiderheinze and ahead of Italy's Gerde Weissensteiner and Jennifer Isacco.
Rohbock, bumped from an Olympic ride four years ago, finally ended a U.S. winless streak. The U.S. was skunked in the first six events on the 19-curve track, which had proved treacherous for many countries and thorny to the U.S. luge, skeleton and bobsled squads.
But Rohbock and Fleming busted through the ice for the U.S. As they crossed the finish line, the pair pumped their fists and Rohbock pounded both hands on the front of USA-1 in celebration.
QUICK HITS: Sledding isn't Rohbock's only skill. She's a two-time soccer and track All-American.
UP NEXT: Friday, men's four-man.
Austria wins record eighth gold
ON THE SNOW: Felix Gottwald used a powerful sprint to rally to victory in the Nordic combined sprint, giving Austria its record eighth gold medal of the Games - a bright spot for a country in the middle of a doping scandal.
Gottwald earned his second gold medal by making up a deficit of nearly a minute from the morning's jumping portion of the event. He finished 5.4 seconds ahead of silver medalist Magnus Moan of Norway. Germany's Georg Hettich took the bronze.
American Todd Lodwick was ninth and teammate Johnny Spillane was 10th.
QUICK HITS: Austria's previews high for gold medals in a Winter Olympics was six.
UP NEXT: Nordic combined is completed.
Germany takes relay again
ON THE SNOW: Germany won its fourth Olympic gold medal in the biathlon relay, with Russia taking silver and France earning the bronze.
The Americans were thrilled to take ninth, led by Jay Hakkinen, who dispatched his demons from his epic collapse in the 10km race by giving the United States the lead after the first of four legs.
QUICK HITS: Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen's made up an astonishing 54.8 seconds on the leaders in the final leg, but it was only good enough to earn his country fifth place.
UP NEXT: Thursday, women's 4x6km relay.