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US fends off Switzerland, 2-0

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  February 24, 2010 02:23 PM

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Switzerland goalie Jonas Hiller stopped the United States time and time again. But in the end, Zach Parise saved the day.

Parise scored a pair of third-period goals, including a clinching empty-netter with 11.2 seconds remaining, and the top-seeded US men's hockey team overcame Hiller and the resilient Swiss with a 2-0 victory this afternoon at Canada Hockey Place.

The US improves to 4-0 in the tournament and will play the winner of tonight's Czech Republic/Finland game in a semifinal Friday, with a berth in Sunday's gold medal game at stake.

“Overall you have to be happy [with the outcome]," said US forward Patrick Kane. "It’s fun with these kind of games, [but] you put it right behind you and look forward to the next one.”

Hiller, who plays for the NHL's Anaheim Ducks when he's not stonewalling teams with superior talent to the Swiss here at the Olympics (Canada needed a shootout goal from Sidney Crosby to overcome him in a preliminary), made 42 saves, many spectacular and many from close range.

“He’s making every save there was, everyone’s like, ‘jeez, almost, almost, almost," said US defenseman Tim Gleason.

Hiller kept the Swiss in it despite a decided shot advantage for the US -- his counterpart, Ryan Miller, the star of the US's 5-3 victory over Canada Sunday, required just 19 saves in this one for the shutout.

“I knew it was going to come down to a tight game," Miller said.

Hiller was the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce here or there; a Phil Kessel missile ricocheted off a post in the second period, and a goal that Hiller essentially bobbled into the net was waved off after replay determined it had come after time in the second period had expired.

But he was nothing short of sensational through the first two periods, and as his save total mounted, tension built: Was the US on the verge of proving its stirring victory over Canada was little more than an aberration?

Thanks to Parise, the answer was no. Two minutes and 8 seconds into the final period, the New Jersey Devils forward got the US on the board. Stationed at the right post, he chopped at and redirected a Brian Rafalski shot from the mid slot.

The puck bounced over Hiller's glove and trickled inside the left post as the goalie lunged in vain, breaking the scoreless tie.

Parise's tally, his first of the Olympics, came on the power play, which was set up when Kessel drew a tripping call on Philippe Furrer as he attempted to tuck the puck inside the right post.

Rafalski said there was never any hint of panic in the US locker room between the second and third periods.

"It was good," he said. "We said, 'We're getting chances, just keep with it and don't try to do more than you're capable of' . . . it was just a matter of time. Guys weren't panicking; we said 'just keep with it.' "

No one kept with it more than Parise. He was the most energetic of the US forwards, save for perhaps Kessel, so it was appropriate that he got the empty-netter to secure the victory with 11.2 seconds left.

Now the US watches and waits tonight to discover its opponent.

“We’re getting better and better every day," US forward Chris Drury said. "Now we'll just go from there."

* * *

19:49: US 2, SWITZERLAND 0 And Parise gets the empty-netter, poking the puck loose along the left boards in the neutral zone, chasing it down, and flipping it in from the faceoff circle on a 2 on 1. And that's gonna do it. Gritty effort by the Swiss, particularly Hiller. But the US also deserves credit for not panicking or deviating from the game plan after being shut out the first two periods.

Three stars from our perspective:

1. Parise. Two goals, and relentless energy in the decisive third.
2. Hiller. If not for one tough bounce, Switzerland could have found itself in its fourth OT of the tournament.
3. Rafalski. Assisted on Parise's first goal, and seemed to be in the middle of the majority of the US's best chances.

We'll be back to top this up with a wrapup shortly. And don't forget, Mr. Dupont will take you through Russia-Canada starting at 7:30.

18:45: Hiller pulled. Switzerland with the accelarating rush, but no results. How about another Kesler open-netter?

16:58: The US now has two forwards on the forecheck, and the Swiss has opened up its attack a little bit. Erik Johnson just thwarted a quality bid with a sliding block of a shot. He's been big.

15:11: Parise has three shots on goal according to the stat sheet. Seems like about a dozen.

14:14: The US is making Hiller work, Rafalski and Parise leading the way. Erik Johnson has also initiated some decent chances. Right now, Hiller has 41 saves, and Miller is probably now in double figures.

12:23: Puck is really bouncing around right now. Luca Sbisa with a hard slapper from the left point that Miller smoothers. Pretty good bid. This is one Switzerland's better sustained offensive sequences of the game.

9:50: Parise has been the US's most active forward this period. A minute ago, he dinged one off the post after stickhandling through the slot, and seconds ago he just missed connecting on a breakaway via Langenbrunner's pass.

8:00: Penalty killed, but Switzerland gets a few decent opportunities, including one by Romano Lemm that appeared to hit Miller in the mask. Put another stitch on, Cheevers.

4:46: A minute or so after a Swiss shot from the right faceoff circle eludes Miller but hits the far post, then the US has a goal waved off after Kesler is called for interference in front on Mathias Seger, who lost his helmet. As an official communicates with the replay official upstairs regarding the Swiss shot earlier, Kesler sits next to him in the box, still barking about the call. The official's scowl tells the story.

Just showed Tim Thomas on the monitor sitting on the US bench. I have no idea why.

Third period, 18:51, UNITED STATES 1, SWITZERLAND 0: Parise breaks the ice, with the help of a nice bounce. Stationed at the far post, he chopped at and redirected a Rafalski shot from the mid slot. The puck bounced over Hiller's glove and trickled inside the far post as the goalie lunged in vain. The US was on the power play, set up when Kessel -- who has been excellent -- drew a tripping call on Philippe Furrer as he attempted to tuck the puck inside the right post.

Second intermission: Stats: US is outshooting the Swiss, 32-8. Hiller has been just short of phenomenal. Miller has rarely been tested. The US is dominating faceoffs, 26-14. The US is 0 for 3 on the power play, the Swiss 0 for 2. And still, no score.

Quickie analysis: It's hard not to notice that the US is playing like Canada did the other night against them. Dominating play, creating legitimate opportunities, and doing everything but putting the puck behind a red-hot goalie. We'll see if the frustration starts to show, but it should be noted that there are ton of Canadian fans in the arena who are cheering loudly for the Swiss.

End of second period, US 0, Switzerland 0: The US gets one . . . and then it doesn't. It appeared the red, white, and blue had taken a 1-0 lead with 0.1 (or less) remaining on the clock when Hiller, using his stick to haul in the puck after a scrum in front, accidentally flipped it airborne, where it bounced off his left shoulder, then off the cross bar, and, as he bent backward, apparently across the goal line. You could call it a fluke goal, but ultimately it was a goal at all. After quick look at replay, officials determined that time had expired before it slipped over the line. So no break for the US, no flukish misfortune for the Swiss, and still, no score.

16:37: Nothing doing again on the power play, but the US is creating some quality chances now. Langenbrunner had a point-blank bid at the left post but the feed from Kane seemed to hop over his stick -- if he controls it, it's a goal -- and Hiller just made an oooooohhh inspiring glove save on a Suter missile from just outside the left point.

13:45:Domenichelli with a decent 2-on-1 bid out of the box -- then he's immediately sent back for hooking. If the US can't get one here, there has to be some level of frustration setting in soon, right?

11:19: Langenbrunner gets perhaps the US's best opportunity yet, with a diving wrister just inside the right point, but Hiller bats it away. Looked like it was net-bound when Langenbrunner let it go.

US on the power play again. Hnat Domenichelli sent to the box. Suter, Rafalski, Kane, Kesler, and Brown out there right now.

9:35: Switzerland's Julien Sprunger with a backhanded bid on the far post that ties up Miller briefly. So far, Miller has been credited with eight saves.

6:05: Rafaelle Sannitz off for roughing, putting the US on the power play. Nothing doing through the first minute.

. . . and in the final minute, the US can barely get set up, with a sequence of turnovers in the neutral zone. (You can insert your own "Swiss" and "neutral" joke here. Hey, you're lucky we've resisted so far.)

2:41: Switzerland on the power play after Ryan Malone is sent to the box for roughing. US has controlled play early here, with Kessel getting the best chance, a quick wrister from the left point that Hiller juggled. Give credit to the Swiss defense; the US is struggling to pounce on rebounds.

And the penalty is killed. Couple of saves for Miller, but no opportunites that make you hold your breath. Tim Gleason blocked one shot with what appeared to be his big toe.

Second period about to get underway: One thing to keep in mind: Switzerland needed OT to beat Belarus yesterday. You have to wonder how long their legs can hold up against this young (youngest in the tournament) and speedy US team.

Same line that started the game starts the second for the US: Langenbrunner-Stastny-Parise.

Still in intermission: By the way, replay shows that it was Kessel who hit the post with a little under four minutes left. He's been very active, on the offensive end at least.

End of first period, US 0, Switzerland 0: One period down, and still no score. Hiller has 18 saves, and perhaps his best one came with approximately a minute left when he used his blocker to deflect a Parise wrister that appeared headed over his left shoulder and into the net. The US also hit a post with roughly 3 minutes left.

According to the stat sheet, the US is leading in shots, 18-4, but the discrepancy doesn't seem that wide. The guess here is that Miller has six or seven saves, with a lot of Swiss attempts going wide of the net.

The US has for the most part controlled play, and their forwards, particularly the Kane-Brown-Kesler crew, seemed to be in sych a little more as the period progressed. Hiller has been outstanding, and as the Canadians can attest, it's not the first time in this tournament. But if the US stays patient and keeps generating quality chances, they should pull this one out.

You think Ron Wilson is telling them -- in a not-so-warm way -- to put the Canada game behind them, because they're in a fight for this one?

Couple more stats: The US won 14 faceoffs to Switzerland's 7, and there was just one penalty, the hooking infraction on Callahan.

16:53: Ryan Kesler gets off a wrister from the slot that appears to hit Hiller in the chest. Twenty seconds later, Kessel, with a bit of fancy stickhandling, nearly gets the US on the boards, but his shot from the right point goes wide. The US is controlling play for the most part, but there's not a lot of cohesiveness when they break out.

15:18: Love watching Bobby Ryan. He fights for every puck as if it's made of gold, and he's completely overpowered a couple of Swiss defensemen in the corners.

(And as I write that, he gets outmuscled by a smaller player in the corner. So much for that.)

13:42: Not to say they're playing poorly, because their speed is creating chances, but Kane and Brown have been getting a little too cute with the puck, leading to a couple of turnovers in the neutral zone.

10:55: Phil Kessel with some fancy stickhandling and then a shot wide. We're obligated to report any sighting of No. 81.

Nice hit by Brown just before that play, nearly topping Switzerland's Yannick Weber into the bench.

The US is buzzing here, particularly Bobby Ryan. Could get one soon if this keeps up. Switzerland is generating some decent chances as well, though for the most part they seem content to fire it in on Miller and hope for a tip or a rebound. Not a lot of close-range action so far.

8:26: US kills the penalty without much drama. Should note a couple of line alterations for the US. Dustin Brown is now matched with Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler, while Bobby Ryan is in a group that includes Backes, Callahan, and Chris Drury.

6:25: Ryan Callahan sent to the box for hooking. Switzerland is 50 percent on the power play in the tournament, but they've had a few good shots on Miller so far. (The shots: US 6, Swiss 3). We'll see if they can generate anything here. Roman Wick, who has two goals in the tourney -- including the Swiss's lone score against the US in prelims -- has been particularly active.

3:17: The US is buzzing Hiller early and often, but he's up to the challenge so far. Rafalski, who had two goals against Canada (Martin Brodeur might have been credited with assists on both) gets off a good look from the slot, but Hiller is there for the save.

First period . . . : . . . and we're underway at Canada Hockey Place. The US starts with a lineup of Paul Stastny, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Zach Parise, with Brian Rafalski and Ryan Suter on defense. Ryan Miller is, of course, in net.


* * *

Greetings from lovely Vancouver, which officially becomes Hockeyville again in a few minutes when the puck is dropped for the 3 p.m. quarterfinal men's matchup between the United States and Switzerland.

We'll be here live blogging that game, with the esteemed Kevin Paul Dupont taking over for the pontential epic between Canada and Russia at 7:40 p.m.

So be sure to check in here for your updates if you're at work (don't worry, your boss isn't looking) or watching NBC (zing!).

The US is seeded first after its thrilling 5-3 victory over Canada Sunday that secured a berth in the quarterfinals, while Switzerland is eighth. But don't be fooled by the seedings; judging by the teams' previous meeting here in the preliminaries, the US will have to be sharp to earn the win.

In their Olympics opener February 16, the US defeated Switzerland, 3-1, but it was not particularly easy. Bobby Ryan and David Backes scored sensational individual goals -- Backes's end-to-end rush drew comparisons here to a vintage Bobby Orr maneuver, which of course we New Englanders know is the height of hyperbole -- but Switzerland, with three NHL players on its roster, including Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, played a tough and disciplined game.

Switzerland, which defeated Belarus in a play-in to reach the quarterfinals, foreshadowed Canada's eventual troubles against the US. Canada needed a shootout goal by Sidney Crosby to beat the Swiss, 3-2, on February 18.

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