U.S. leads 4 teams into Olympic men's ice hockey quarter-finals

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The United States, Sweden, Russia and Finland have secured their berths in the men’s ice hockey quarter-finals of the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games after the conclusion of preliminary play in Vancouver on Sunday.

The U.S. team claimed its first victory over Canada at the Winter Olympics in 50 years, holding off the host of the Vancouver Games 5-3 in the last game of pool A here on Sunday.

Brian Rafalski of the Detroit Red Wings scored his third and fourth goal of this tournament in the first period to lead the United States into top eight of the Winter Olympics with their third straight win and a sweet revenge for the gold medal game loss to the Canadians at the Salt Lake City Games eight years ago.

“It took me 60 games to get four in the NHL. I don’t know what’s going on,” said the 36-year-old defenseman, who broke the deadlock 41 seconds into the game with an accurate long shot past Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur.

Twenty seconds after Eric Staal leveled the score for Canada, Rafalski pulled his team ahead again with another long shot.

“I think it’s just going in for me. I’m a streaky goal scorer, Rafalski added.

Dany Heatley scored on a rebound from a Jonathan Toews shot three minutes and 32 seconds into the second period to make it 2-2, but the United States regained the lead on a wild Chris Drury goal at 16:46.

United States enlarged its lead thanks to Jamie Langenbrunner’s great work in front of the net, deflecting a Ryan Suter slap shot from the point at 7:09 of the third.

Canadian “Golden Boy” Sidney Crosby finally found his touch assisted by Rick Nash on the power play to cut the deficit to 4-3 with three minutes and nine seconds left in the game, only to find Ryan Kesler score the empty net goal after Brodeur was removed for an extra attacker to end the game.

In Sunday’s other actions, defending Olympic champions Sweden swept Finland 3-0 to finish top of pool C while Russia overcame Czech 4-2 for the first place in pool B.

The United States, Sweden and Russia all marched into the quarter-finals with three straight wins with Finland also advancing as the fourth finisher overall of the 12 teams competing in the preliminary stage.

The other eight teams will vie for the remaining quarter-final tickets in the play-offs qualifying round on Tuesday with title favorites Canada to take on Germany.

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