Sports

North America stays alive with 4-3 OT win; Sweden clinches first in Group B

Nathan MacKinnon acted as if his overtime winner against Sweden put his team through to the next round at the World Cup of Hockey.

Team North America's Nathan MacKinnon, centre, celebrates his game winning goal against Sweden during overtime World Cup of Hockey action in Toronto, Wednesday September 21, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Team North America's Nathan MacKinnon, centre, celebrates his game winning goal against Sweden during overtime World Cup of Hockey action in Toronto, Wednesday September 21, 2016.

TORONTO — Nathan MacKinnon acted as if his overtime winner against Sweden put his team through to the next round at the World Cup of Hockey.

He was wrong.

MacKinnon scored off a pretty deke with just 49 seconds remaining in the extra period as Team North America beat Sweden 4-3 on Wednesday in the final preliminary-round game for both teams.

The two points assures North America (2-1-0) is still alive in the eight-team tournament, but Russia holds the tiebreaker in Group B and can eliminate the under-24 squad and take a spot in the semifinals if it beats Finland (0-2-0) on Thursday.

"Honestly when I scored I thought we were in, maybe we shouldn't have (celebrated) so hard," said MacKinnon. "We gave ourselves a chance, it'll be stressful tomorrow but we have faith in the Finns."

Sweden (2-0-1) overcame an early two-goal deficit to clinch first place in Group B and a spot in the semis by getting to overtime and earning a single point against North America.

That's good enough for Sweden's Filip Forsberg, who put his team on the board in the first period.

"Obviously we knew what we had to do and the point sealed the first spot in the group," he said. "We did what we came to do and we're moving on to the semis."

The opening eight minutes, and much of the first period, belonged to speedy North America and it found itself ahead 2-0 just 1:35 into the game on goals from Auston Matthews and Vincent Trocheck.

"The start probably set us up for the end, couldn't ask for a better start," said North America coach Todd McLellan.

It could have been 3-0 less than two minutes into the game had Johnny Gaudreau finished a penalty shot on Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 45 shots in the loss.

"Those first two minutes there was probably the most embarrassing part that I’ve ever been a part of on a team," said Erik Karlsson, who hauled down Gaudreau leading to the penalty shot. 

"They did it all. They had three breakaways, a penalty shot, penalty call with them against us, goal in the net, two goals in the net. It gave us a kind of a slap in the face."

Forsberg cut his team's deficit in half at 8:24, but Gaudreau switched up his breakaway approach to restore the two-goal lead for North America at 13:57.

Rather than shoot like he did on his penalty shot earlier in the period, the Flames forward deked to his forehand after being sprung in all alone by Shayne Gostisbehere and slid the puck past a sprawled-out Lundqvist.

"The first one (Lundqvist) played back more and I thought I'd shoot, which I never do and probably shouldn't have," said Gaudreau. "Second one I used my speed and just try and make a nice move."

Nicklas Backstrom made it a 3-2 score before the first intermission, then both goalies stole the show in the second period to keep it a one-goal game heading into the third.

North America would have been guaranteed a spot in the semifinals with a regulation win and Sweden would have had to wait on the Russia-Finland outcome instead, but Berglund tied the game 3-3 6:50 into the third when he re-directed a Karlsson point shot past a screened John Gibson — sending the game into overtime.

"As we went down the stretch we played to win and I think in overtime both teams were certainly trying to win... very exciting," said McLellan.

Shortly before MacKinnon's winner, Daniel Sedin had a glorious chance to win it for Sweden but was stoned on a breakaway by the right pad of Gibson, who finished the game with 35 saves.

"At that point it doesn't matter how or what you do," said Gibson. "As long as it stays out of the net, that's all that matters."

Notes: Goaltender Matt Murray (thumb) said he was ready to play after participating in Tuesday's practice, but McLellan went with Gibson in net and Connor Hellebuyck as back up... Defenceman Colton Parayko started on top pairing with Morgan Rielly in place of Aaron Ekblad (upper body)... Forward J.T. Miller replaced Dylan Larkin, who had just 5:33 of ice time in Monday's loss to Russia.