Bad break sparks U.S. past Switzerland
Take a deep breath and exhale.
In a game of bounces and inches, the Americans' 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Switzerland had about 20,000 of them Tuesday. And in a tournament where one loss determines success and failure, one bounce, one split second can mean everything.
And when I say split second, I mean a split second.
With time running out in the second period, Ryan Kesler threw the puck at the net from the left corner, bouncing off of Swiss goaltender Jonas Hiller's stick, shoulder and eventually into the net. The scoreboard clock was at 0:00, but the red light was on and the Americans were celebrating.
But unlike football, the puck must cross the goal line before time expires. The play was reviewed and a freeze frame showed the puck lying on the red line as the clock struck zero.
A young U.S. club went into the locker room frustrated, but not rattled. After two periods and a plethora of shots, they had solved the Swiss puzzle known as Jonas Hiller, even if it happened a tenth of a second too late.
"I think we picked up a lot of confidence from that," forward Chris Drury said. "I think you saw it with our first few shifts of the third period where we were able to go to the net and create that power play."
The Americans had outshot the Swiss 32-8 over the first 40 minutes, owned a 2-to-1 advantage in faceoffs, and enjoyed three straight power plays, but hadn't scored.
Within the first few minutes of the third period Jamie Langenbrunner struck the post and Phil Kessel, who had already struck iron in the first period, went from left to right trying to put home a rebound into an empty net. Kessel missed, pushing the puck wide, but Philippe Furrer pulled him down in the process, putting the Americans on their fourth power play.
"We just kept on fighting," Kessel said. "Whatever you have to do, you just try and get wins. We were positive, upbeat, we just had to keep attacking the net."
When the Americans went on the man advantage, there was the sense that if they didn't score this time, it wasn't going to happen. Langenbrunner was once again lodged in front of the net with his Devils teammate Zach Parise when former Devil Brian Rafalski shot the puck, nicking Parise's stick as it was redirected into the net.
"It's not always the three best players who make the best scoring line," Parise said. "You need guys that are going to do different things. Guys willing to get into the corner and get the puck. Three fancy guys aren't always going to get it done."
American goalie Ryan Miller was unflappable again in limited work (19 saves), but the post made his biggest save of the day. A shot by Switzerland's Sandy Jeannin from the faceoff circle hit the inner right side of the pipe, setting off the red light and the crowd, but play continued because the puck never crossed the line.
The puck instead slid to Ryan Kesler, who cleared it and raced up the ice. He eventually got called for a high stick a fraction of a second before tipping in a would-be goal.
In a matter of seconds a 1-0 game nearly became a 1-1 game and then a 2-0 game, and then back to 1-0 again.
Just wacky, wacky stuff.
Hiller made 42 saves, but the Americans didn't press him. The U.S. forecheck lacked presence for two periods, allowing the Swiss to gain confidence and the crowd.
But the nongoal at the end of the second period turned out to be just the thing the Americans needed to spark them in the third and into Friday's semifinal.