By Josh Ferguson
An entire nation breathed a sigh of relief after Team Canada needed a shootout to beat the Swiss 3-2 in Group A action at Canada Hockey Place on Thursday.
Canadian keeper Martin Brodeur stopped all four shooters he faced and 22-year-old Sidney Crosby, on his second attempt in the shootout, beat Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller to solidify a tense win for the host nation.
Despite outshooting Switzerland 47-23 in regulation and overtime, Canada was matched in every facet of the game by the scrappy Swiss squad.
Dany Heatley broke the deadlock at 9:21 of the first with his third goal of the tournament when he kicked a Patrick Marleau pass from his skate to his stick and snapped it passed Hiller.
Canada would extend their lead on the power play when Swiss defenseman Yannick Weber was called for hooking just 27 seconds into the middle frame. After a Shea Weber point shot bounced off Heatley’s hip, Marleau swooped in to bury the prone puck eight seconds into the man advantage.
The Swiss made it a one-goal game when Martin Pluss stole the puck from Drew Doughty at the Swiss blueline and chipped it ahead to Ivo Ruthemann streaking up the left wing. Ruthemann elected to keep the puck on the 2-on-1 and fired a rocket off the right post and passed Brodeur.
Canadian head coach Mike Babcock sent a message to the team about costly turnovers by benching Doughty until the start of the third.
After they narrowed the margin to one goal, Switzerland was up to their old tricks and outworked the Canadians for the rest of the period. The Swiss were awarded for their efforts when Patrick von Gunten threw a puck on the Canadian goal from the half boards that ricocheted off Marleau’s foot and into the net to tie the game.
The game remained knotted at two apiece through the final frame and overtime thanks to an outstanding performance by Hiller, who was easily the best player on the ice from either side. The Swiss ‘tender stopped 45 shots in a losing effort, including 18 shots in the third. At the other end, Brodeur made 21 saves for the win.
Because of the shootout win, Canada will only receive two points for their victory, while the Swiss pick up a single point for their valiant effort.
Canada (1-0-1-0) looks forward to Sunday when they meet the United States with Group A supremacy on the line. Switzerland (0-1-0-1) will try to rebound from the tough loss when they meet Norway on Saturday afternoon.
By Josh Ferguson