Men's ice hockey

For Canada, it's the great escape

Sidney Crosby skates away after scoring the game-winner for Canada in its shootout victory over Switzerland, a team that stunned Canada in the 2006 Games.
Sidney Crosby skates away after scoring the game-winner for Canada in its shootout victory over Switzerland, a team that stunned Canada in the 2006 Games. (Bruce Bennett/getty Images)
By Associated Press
Friday, February 19, 2010

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Across Canada, there was a single response: Whew.

Sidney Crosby scored the only goal of a shootout in which an entire nation of nervous Canadians hung on every shot, giving Canada a 3-2 victory over Switzerland on Thursday and avoiding a second inconceivable loss to the Swiss in as many Olympics.

Canada, a huge favorite despite a 2-0 upset defeat to Switzerland in 2006 that ranks among the greatest in Olympic history, took a 2-0 lead early in the second and looked to be cruising. But the Swiss, with two NHL players to Canada's 23, came back to tie it on second-period goals by Ivo Ruthemann and Patrick von Gunten.

After a scoreless third period and five-minute overtime, the first three shooters for each team in the shootout failed. Crosby put a wrist shot past Jonas Hiller with his second attempt, and the game ended when Canada goalie Martin Brodeur stopped Martin Pluss' shot.

Canada, helped by early goals from San Jose Sharks teammates Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau, now faces a North American showdown Sunday with the Americans, who are undefeated after routing Norway, 6-1, earlier in the day. The Canadians must win to be assured of gaining the quarterfinals without needing an extra game in a newly added qualification round.

Hiller, the Anaheim Ducks' goalie, couldn't have played much better while making 45 saves, but the Swiss simply didn't have enough skilled shooters to stage an upset that perhaps would have been greater than their 2006 surprise.

None of their four shooters came close to scoring in the shootout. Brodeur, the best goalie of his generation, easily turned aside former NHL player Hnat Domenichelli, Romano Lemm, Roman Wick and Pluss.

Maybe Canada should have taken note of the date: Feb. 18, the same as when Martin Gerber made 49 saves in Turin while sending the Canadians to one of their worst defeats since the country invented hockey.

This would have been worse. This Canadian team is considered to be superior in all areas to the aging 2006 team that finished seventh in Turin, one place behind the Swiss.The Americans had considerably less trouble with their opponent Thursday.

With Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimming star, watching from four rows off center ice, the Americans easily beat Norway to improve to 2-0 in these Games. Phelps didn't see all the scoring because he left with 5 1/2 minutes remaining, just after the United States made it 4-1.

Nursing a two-goal lead for much of the final two periods, the Americans broke it open when defenseman Brian Rafalski scored twice in the final three minutes.

"We've got some work to do still, there's no question about that," U.S. captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We're making far too many mistakes we can't be making against Canada."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company