TORONTO — The United States wrapped up a disappointing, winless performance at the World Cup of Hockey with a 4-3 loss to the Czech Republic on Thursday night.
Previous losses to Team Europe and Canada eliminated the U.S. from contention, and its round-robin finale had no meaning for either team. With an 0-3-0 record and a minus-6 goal differential, the U.S. finished seventh among eight teams, ahead of only Finland.
Joe Pavelski, Justin Abdelkader and Ryan McDonagh scored for the U.S., which did not unravel in a meaningless game like it did in the 2014 Olympic bronze medal game. Ben Bishop allowed four goals on 20 shots in two periods, and Cory Schenider made seven saves in relief.
Petr Mrazek stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced to backstop the Czech Republic to its first victory. Milan Michalek scored twice and Zbynek Michalek and Andrej Sustr each had a goal.
U.S. players promised they wouldn’t mail it in with nothing to play for. A result of human nature, it felt like an all-star game with a lack of real physicality as everyone wanted to get through without getting injured.
Frustration boiled over for Dustin Byfuglien at the final buzzer as he went after Czech defenseman Michal Jordan.
A collection of fans spent stretches of the first period chanting, “Let’s go Kessel!” and “We want Kessel!” Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins winger Phil Kessel was left off the U.S. team and made light of that on Twitter on Tuesday night after the Americans lost to Canada.
That was a must-win game for the U.S. after opening the tournament with what Patrick Kane called a “dud” against Europe. General manager Dean Lombardi blamed not being prepared for that game for the U.S. bowing out of the World Cup.
“I don’t think we showed enough respect for the talent on that team,” Lombardi said Thursday morning.
Lombardi said that the 3-0 loss to Europe put the U.S. behind the “proverbial 8-ball” that felt like a boulder. The Los Angeles Kings GM has seen his team come back from a 3-0 playoff deficit but described the locker room after losing to Europe as tight, and the U.S. was never able to adequately respond.
Getting almost skated out of the rink by Canada wasn’t entirely unexpected, but players acknowledged their recipe to move on was to beat Europe and the Czech Republic. They didn’t do either, and USA Hockey faces plenty of questions about how it will bounce back for the 2018 Olympics.
That’s if NHL players even participate, or the U.S. might have to wait until the next World Cup, which will make it a long four years.