Reimer there when it counts

At the end of a tough afternoon James Reimer was thankful for another opportunity to contribute to the Canadian cause.

Canada’s Marc Methot up-ends American Jack Skille

Canada’s Marc Methot up-ends American Jack Skille

Canada 4 U.S. 3 (SO)

KOSICE, Slovakia — At the end of a tough afternoon James Reimer was thankful for another opportunity to contribute to the Canadian cause.

The goaltender surrendered a couple shaky goals to the U.S. on Friday but made two important saves in the shootout as Canada survived another scare at the IIHF World Hockey Championship and pulled out a 4-3 victory.

Jordan Eberle and Rick Nash each beat Ty Conklin in the tiebreaker while Reimer denied Jack Johnson and Blake Wheeler to keep Canada perfect at the tournament. The goaltender faced just 20 shots during the game and found it tough to get in a groove.

“It was an interesting game,” said Reimer. “I felt like every shot went in from my part. It was a heck of a tough game, one of the toughest I’ve played. I felt like I was on my angle and where I needed to be, but for some reason pucks were missing me. …

“I just had to keep battling and when it went to a shootout it was kind of a time to redeem yourself a little bit.”

Reimer has started all four of Canada’s games here but will serve as Jonathan Bernier’s backup when the Canadians face Norway today (TSN, 8:15 a.m. ).

With games on consecutive days, that was the plan all along. Canadian coach Ken Hitchcock hinted Reimer will continue to be his No. 1 man when the team wraps up the round robin against Sweden on Monday before travelling to Bratislava for the medal round.

“We’re still focused on Reims right now, to be honest with you,” said Hitchcock. “He’s not going to have games like this for the rest of the tournament. He’s going to have to make a lot of saves later on.”

Canada carried the game offensively and directed 51 shots at Conklin, who made his first start of the tournament. Reimer couldn’t help but notice the performance his counterpart was delivering at the other end of the ice.

“It makes it even harder when your game isn’t quite up to par and the other guy is standing on his head,” said Reimer. “You’ve got to have mental toughness, you’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to be able to battle through that and come up big when you need to.

“Thankfully, I got another opportunity to make a few saves for my team.”

Brent Burns, John Tavares and Jason Spezza scored in regulation for Canada (4-0-0) while Johnson, Mike Komisarek and Derek Stepan replied for the U.S. (2-1-1).

With 20 goals in four games, scoring hasn’t been much of a problem for the Canadians. But they were only able to solve Conklin once on 30 shots through two periods and found themselves trailing 2-1 with 20 minutes to play.

“We tried to talk to him a bit, get in his kitchen,” Spezza said of Conklin. “He was unflappable today. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your hat at a guy, he played great.”

The game went back and forth in the final period.

Tavares tied it 2-2 at 3:27 before setting up Spezza for a power-play goal less than two minutes later. But Stepan completed a nice-give-and go with Wheeler and beat Reimer with a low shot at 11:17 to set up overtime.

Canada gave up a one-goal lead with less than two minutes remaining before beating Switzerland in overtime earlier this week.

“We’ve got to learn how to finish games off,” said Nash.

The Canadians weren’t very sharp early in the game, turning the puck over with a number of sloppy passes and failing to capitalize on some good scoring chances. But they came out hard in the second period and did everything but score.

“I think we hit three posts in three shifts there,” said forward Evander Kane. “The bounces definitely weren’t going our way.”

To make matters worse, Komisarek opened the scoring shortly afterwards. The defenceman took a floating seeing-eye shot that dipped before making its way through legs of his Maple Leafs teammate Reimer.

After Burns had tied it 1-1, the Canadian goalie was beaten by Johnson on a breakaway that came when he got out of the penalty box. The third American goal came from the slot but it was a shot Reimer figured he could have had.

“It’s really hard for a goaltender to play in a game like this,” said Hitchcock. “From our standpoint, I was happy for him that he did so well in the overtime when we needed him.”

In the late game, Sweden beat France 4-0 with goals from Robert Nilsson, Oliver Ekman Larsson, Patrik Berglund and Staffan Kronwall

Meanwhile in Bratislava, Marek Zidlicky, Martin Havlat and Patrik Elias scored to lead defending champion Czech Republic to a 3-2 win over host Slovakia, securing a spot in the quarter-finals. Finland also prevailed, defeating Germany 5-4 in shootout.

Finland has five points in Group E, while Germany has seven and is closing in on a berth in the quarter.

Notes: Bernier backed up Reimer. … Al Montoya started in goal for the first three U.S. games here. … Defenceman Mario Scalzo was removed from Canada’s lineup to make room for centre Antoine Vermette, who played just 3:21. … Komisarek has one goal in 109 games with the Leafs over the last two seasons. … Johnson played a game-high 28 -minutes, including more than half of overtime.

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