KEEPING the puck out of the net has become a major problem for the Americans at the world hockey championship.
They were upset 6-5 by Latvia on Thursday in Minsk, Belarus, and have given up 12 goals in the past two games.
U.S. goaltender Tim Thomas (Dallas Stars) owns a 4.01 goals-against average in the tournament.
"Over the last two games, we have played loose defensively and we have been giving teams the middle of the ice," U.S. captain Justin Abdelkader told USA TODAY Sports from Belarus. "We've played catch-up hockey the last two games and that's losing hockey."
Thomas (Dallas Stars) gave up six goals on 25 shots and coach Peter Laviolette might have to consider using Washington Capitals minor leaguer David Leggio in net for the team's next game today against Kazakhstan.
Thomas has not been sharp in the last two games.
"Right from the start, we have to come out and play tighter and better," Abdelkader said. "Every team in this tournament is good. We have to learn from our mistakes quick."
With the game tied 4-4, Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons scored a spectacular goal against Thomas as he was being pulled down from behind.
That gave Latvia a 5-4 lead, and three minutes later, it went ahead 6-4 on a breakaway goal by Herbert Vasiljevs.
Brock Nelson (New York Islanders) scored his second goal of the game with a little more than a minute left, but the Americans couldn't get the tying goal in the closing minutes.
"This was a tough game," Nelson said. "We got ourselves in a couple of holes and battled back. We would tie the game, but couldn't find the goal that would put us in front."
The Americans rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie, and then tied it after falling behind 4-3.
Seth Jones and Craig Smith (Nashville Predators), plus Tyler Johnson (Tampa Bay Lightning) also scored for the Americans (2-2).
The loss theoretically hurts the Americans in terms of seeding for the quarter-finals.
"You have to have short-term memory here," Nelson said. "There were some positives today. The special teams were good. But you have to get wins."
In other action, defending champion Sweden edged France 2-1 while Finland downed Belarus 2-0.
For Sweden, which meets Canada on Sunday, Joel Lundquist and Oscar Moller scored 17 seconds apart in the second.
Stephane Da Costa scored the lone French goal.
"We're happy with the three points but we know we have to play better later on here," Lundquist, the Sweden captain, said.
Russia leads their group, followed by Lativa, then Finland, Belarus and the U.S.
-- USA Today