It's not the medal they wanted, but at least the Americans aren't leaving the world junior championship they hosted empty-handed.
Playing with far more tenacity and determination than in a semifinal loss to Canada earlier this week, the United States won the bronze Wednesday by defeating a game Sweden squad 4-2.
Drew Shore scored the go-ahead goal 52 seconds into the third period and Nick Bjugstad added some insurance at 12:40 as the pre-tournament favourites managed to salvage some pride.
Jesper Fasth's goal at 14:18 set up a tight finish, but Chris Kreider put it away with his second of the game with 1:53 left, taking a lovely pass from Kyle Palmieri and firing a shot top corner past Fredrik Petersson Wentzel.
Jack Campbell made 34 saves for the United States, which for the first time has won medals at the world juniors in consecutive years after beating Canada for gold in 2010.
Oscar Lindberg replied for the Swedes, who failed to reach the podium after winning bronze last year after back-to-back silvers. Petersson Wentzel stopped 40 shots.
It was a chippy affair with plenty of after-whistle scrums at an HSBC Arena marked by Canadian red but with a strong American presence. At one point a "Canada, Canada" chant was easily drowned out by cries of "USA, USA," with small pockets of "Sweden" shouts.
Shore got the crowd going early in the third when he tipped in Justin Faulk's point shot and Bjugstad extended the advantage with another deft deflection.
Fasth made it 3-2 when he was left alone in front and knocked in his own rebound, giving the Swedes life until Kreider sealed it.
Neither team played as if they were competing for a consolation prize, zealously going after one another from the first drop of the puck.
The Swedes came out strong early, dropping several big hits and testing Campbell during the game's opening five minutes. But unlike the semifinal loss to Canada, the Americans held strong, throwing their weight around from the outset before gaining control of the contest.
The U.S. outshot Sweden 13-5 in the first but squandered the best of their opportunities.
Sweden came out steadier for the second, and Lindberg broke through just past the midway point of the second period. He collected the rebound of Carl Klingberg's shot off the wing and after fanning on his initial attempt, spun as he was falling and slid the puck through Campbell.
But the Americans replied on a power play just 1:34 later, as Kreider took Chris Brown's clever centring pass from behind the goal and wired a shot past Petersson Wentzel.
Notes: Petersson Wentzel started in goal for Sweden over Robin Lehner, the Ottawa Senators prospect on loan from AHL Binhamton. Lehner struggled in the semifinal loss to Russia. ... Both teams won their groups but both lost in the semifinals. ... Before Wednesday's games, the Americans had won nine of the past 10 world junior meetings with Sweden, tying the other contest, since 1997.
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