Not today, USA: Canada stifles U.S. to crush America's gold medal dreams in Sochi

Not today, USA: Canada stifles U.S. to crush America's gold medal dreams in Sochi

That sweet revenge that American hockey fans have been yearning for since Vancouver in 2010? Well, it’ll have to wait until 2018 in South Korea because Friday just wasn’t the Americans’ day in Sochi.

A second-period tip-in from Jamie Benn proved to be the death knell as Canada smothered the United States into submission, 1-0, with a masterful defensive performance and advanced to Sunday’s gold medal game against Sweden, which topped Finland in the other Olympic semifinal.

The loss was a bitter pill for the Americans, who, despite 36 superb saves from goalie Jonathan Quick, once again fell short to our neighbors from the Great White North.

Coming into the game, the question was whether or not the Canadians, who had only six goals from forwards in their previous four games, could muster enough offense to keep up with an American juggernaut that had averaged five goals a game n the tournament.

Turns out the Canadians did get just enough offense because their defense suffocated the Americans at almost every turn.

The Americans had a few solid chances in the first 10 minutes of the contest, including a wonderful Carey Price glove save on defenseman John Carlson off a rush. But after that, the Canadians were stuck to them like super glue.

Almost every time a U.S. player touched or tried to rush the puck up ice, a player in a red maple leaf-adorned sweater was there to meet and pressure him. It was even that way when the U.S. was on a power play. There was nowhere to move the puck and the Americans were forced to keep the puck to the outside and out of the high-scoring areas.

Even when the Americans rushed into the offensive zone, it seemed like they were always outnumbered and silenced by Canadian defenders, specifically backchecking forwards that were able to match the speed of the American forwards and make things that much more difficult for the Americans.

It was an even more impressive shutdown performance by Canada when you consider how fast the pace of the game was. It was insanely fast up-and-down play throughout the entire game. There were barely any breaks to catch some breath, which made for exciting hockey despite the score.

As far as the scoring goes, Canada had sustained momentum at the first intermission despite a scoreless game.

That momentum finally paid off less than two minutes into the second when Benn tipped home a silky slap-pass that Jay Bouwmeester was able to thread to him from the point.

That’s when the smothering Canadian defense really took over and limited any legitimate chances the Americans had to tie the game.

When the Americans did have a legitimate chance on net, Price, who had 31 saves in the shutout, had the answer and his teammates then quickly cleared the puck out of harm’s way. The Americans barely had any sustained pressure. It was one and done.

Quick was phenomenal in the game and kept the U.S. in it. He deserved a better fate than he got.

As a consolation, the U.S. will take on Kimmo Timonen and the rest of Team Finland on Saturday in the bronze medal game.

Hey, any Olympic hardware is good Olympic hardware.

If it makes you feel any better, there’s only six more days until Flyers hockey comes back and all that sweet Nike USA Hockey gear will be like half-off in a few days.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

DALLAS -- Harrison Barnes scored 19 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points and nine rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks ended a three-game losing streak by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 96-83 on Saturday night.

The Pelicans fell to 0-2 since trading for DeMarcus Cousins and pairing him with Anthony Davis.

Davis had 39 points and 14 rebounds but scored only 12 in the second half. Cousins finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Seth Curry scored 10 of his 13 in the fourth quarter to help Dallas pull away. His 3-pointer with 4:49 to play gave the Mavericks an 84-72 lead, and the Pelicans never got closer than six after that (see full recap).

Harden leads Rockets past Timberwolves in 142-130 shootout
HOUSTON -- James Harden had 24 points and 10 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 142-130 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves as both teams set season scoring highs in a Saturday night shootout.

Houston won for the sixth time in seven games, handing the Timberwolves their first road loss in more than three weeks.

Minnesota committed a season-high 25 turnovers that led to 38 points for the Rockets.

Playing against Houston's guard-heavy rotation, Minnesota went inside all night and outscored the Rockets 68-44 in the paint. Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points and 22 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins added 30 points (see full recap).

Bulls benefit as James sits with strep, beat Cavs 117-99
CLEVELAND -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points and Jimmy Butler recorded a triple-double, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 117-99 victory Saturday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played without LeBron James.

James missed the game with strep throat, and coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn't sure how long the Cavaliers would be without the four-time MVP. Cleveland struggled as it often does without its star - they are 4-19 without him since he returned to Cleveland in 2014, including 0-4 this season.

Chicago has won all three games against Cleveland this season. It took advantage of James' absence to win its fourth straight overall (see full recap).

George ejected, Heat stay hot with 113-95 win over Pacers
MIAMI -- Paul George had another frustrating night in Miami.

Hassan Whiteside scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, Dion Waiters added 22 points and the red-hot Miami Heat pulled away late to beat the Indiana Pacers 113-95 on Saturday night. Miami outscored Indiana 42-22 in the final 16 minutes, all with George watching from the Pacers' locker room after an ejection.

"It felt like a playoff-type game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said (see full recap).