(Reuters) - The United States lost their second match at the ice hockey world championships in Belarus as they went down 6-5 to Latvia on Thursday.
Gints Meija opened the scoring for Latvia in the first period but the lead lasted less than a minute before American Craig Smith produced a fine wrist shot to beat the goaltender.
Mikelis Redlihs put the Latvians ahead again just before the intermission after Tim Thomas gave up a big rebound on a Ronalds Kenins shot.
Alexandrs Nizivijs made it 3-1 on the powerplay but two goals from Brock Nelson and Tyler Johnson, both also on the powerplay, leveled the game at 3-3 11 minutes into the second period.
Kaspars Daugavins made it 4-3 with eight minutes to go in the third to put Latvia into the lead for the third time but the Americans responded again as Kevin Hayes tipped home a slap shot from Seth Jones.
Zemgus Girgensons, Latvia's only current NHL player, put his team ahead in the 55th minute and Herberts Vasilijevs made it 6-4 with two minutes of regulation time remaining.
The U.S. gave themselves hope when Nelson got his second, but despite a final push they could not find the leveler as Latvia claimed their first win over the Americans since 2001.
It was the second consecutive game in which the U.S. have conceded six goals after being routed 6-1 by Russia and Jones said his team needed to do a better job of protecting Thomas.
"Six goals is just too many," he told reporters.
"We are doing a lot of good things but have to tighten up defensively, both forwards and defensemen. We can’t let teams get too close to the net."
Canada claimed an easy 6-1 win over Denmark in Group A. Cody Hodgson put the North Americans 1-0 ahead after five minutes, only for Nicklas Jenson to reply four minutes later.
But Canada recovered as Hodgson completed a hat-trick, Matt Read scored two goals and Jonathan Huberdeau got the other as they improved to a 3-1 win-loss record.
(Reporting by Dimitriy Rogovitsky, editing by Ed Osmond)