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Latvia
Switzerland

21 SOG
39 SOG
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SUI
game recap

Late goal helps Swiss avoid upset against Latvia

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:52 AM

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Late goal helps Swiss avoid upset against Latvia
Latvia 0, Switzerland 1

SOCHI -- Switzerland came to the 2014 Sochi Olympics looking to continue its upward mobility in the international hockey power structure. The Swiss can add "ability to survive a scare from an inferior opponent" to its dossier as a burgeoning contender.

Latvia goaltender Edgars Masalskis stopped the first 38 shots he faced, but a tough break on No. 39, from Nashville Predators forward Simon Moser with 7.9 seconds left in regulation, proved the difference Wednesday in a 1-0 victory for Switzerland in the teams' opening games in Group C at Shayba Arena. The Swiss outshot the Latvians 39-21, but Masalskis authored a masterful performance to give his country a chance for a monumental upset.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS

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"I probably never in my life played a game like that," Switzerland and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Mark Streit said. "It is the first game. It was a tough one. Their goalie played unbelievable. Our goalie played really well too. I thought we had a little more scoring chances than they did but they played well. It went to the end. … It was a little bit nerve-racking but we stuck with it and stayed positive and it worked out in the end. We got lucky a little bit but sometimes that's what you need. It is a big relief for us."

Latvia forward Lauris Darzins was checked behind the Swiss net and injured on the play. He was slow to get up, and when he got to the bench there was a delay in someone replacing him.

Moser carried the puck into the left corner of the Latvian zone. The delayed change afforded Switzerland an extra-man situation, and Latvia's defensive-zone coverage was left to scramble. Moser threw the puck toward the net and it hit defenseman Georgijs Pujacs and slid across the goal line.

"We got better and better [Wednesday] and showed that we can really compete," Latvia coach Ted Nolan said. "Unfortunately it's a game of mistakes and we made one when it mattered the most. … One of our players got hit behind the boards. It was a 5-on-4 situation and we still had the puck. If we just would have thrown it in deep maybe we would have been able to kill off the last nine seconds."

Switzerland has been seen as an improving hockey nation for years and won a silver medal at the 2013 IIHF World Championship. With Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller leading a group of NHL players on the roster that continues to increase in number, the Swiss would like to make it back-to-back strong performances in major tournaments to further close the gap on the "big seven" hockey-playing nations.

The Swiss haven't been favorites in games at this tournament often but did survive in that role Wednesday.

"Definitely, I agree with that," Switzerland coach Scott Simpson said when asked if his team still is learning to play as a favorite. "I think we handled things better than we have in the past. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but after winning the silver medal [at the Worlds] it's our job as a team to keep our feet on the ground.

"Just because we're ranked seventh or eighth in the world and we've won one medal, it doesn't mean that we will be competing every time for a medal."

Hiller, who stopped all 21 shots he faced on his 32nd birthday, pointed to the final result as what matters.

"In the end all that counts is the win," he said. "It was probably not our best game, but at the same time this year is one of the first tournaments where we had more guys coming in from overseas so it was harder to get the lineup [set] and things like the power play where you need to know what the other guys do. It gets tougher if you don't score and then you try different stuff that makes it even worse."

Latvia had no wins, eight losses and two ties against the top eight teams (Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States) in its Olympic history before Wednesday. Toss in the World Championship and Latvia has seven wins, eight ties and 57 losses against those nations.

Three seventh-place finishes at the World Championship (1997, 2004 and 2009) represent the height of Latvia's success at this level.

Masalskis, 33, has been the No. 1 goaltender for Latvia for years, appearing in 41 World Championship games and five at the Olympics. He plays for HK Popard in the top professional league in Slovakia. Previous to that he spent parts of five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Masalskis made a handful of highlight-worthy saves to stymie the Swiss. He had two side-to-side stops on what looked like sure goals during Switzerland power plays in the first period and then stoned New Jersey Devils forward Damian Brunner for the second time in the game with a leg save on a 2-on-1.

"I thought we played a pretty decent game but just couldn't find a way to put the puck in the back of the net," Hiller said. "The longer the game goes like that the tougher it gets. You start trying new things that don't always work and try to get too fancy. We'll take the three points and go from here."

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GAME SUMMARY


SCORING
LAT 0 0 0 - 0
SUI 0 0 1 - 1

First Period
Penalties - Indrasis LAT (high sticking) 9:51, Rekis LAT (holding) 14:03.

Second Period
Penalties - Diaz SUI (high sticking) 22:00, Moser SUI (high sticking) 25:38, Ozolins LAT (cross checking) 32:53

Third Period
1. SUI, Moser (Streit) 59:52
Penalties - Vauclair SUI (holding) 43:44, Darzins LAT (too many men) 47:24, Karsums LAT (holding) 56:06

SHOTS ON GOAL
LAT   6  10  5  - 21
SUI  12 12 15 - 39

Goaltenders
(goals-shots against) - SUI: Hiller (W, 21-21); LAT: Masalskis (L, 38-39).

Power plays
(goals-chances) - SUI: 0-5; LAT: 0-3
Latvia
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
21 A. Berzins 6'3" 214 12/27/1983 Riga, LAT
47 M. Cipulis 5'11" 187 11/29/1980 Cesis, LAT
10 L. Darzins 6'3" 201 1/28/1985 Riga, LAT
16 K. Daugavins 6'1" 205 5/18/1988 Riga, LAT
28 Z. Girgensons BUF 6'1" 190 1/5/1994 Riga, LAT
70 M. Indrasis 6'3" 187 9/30/1990 Riga, LAT
51 K. Jass 6'0" 192 5/4/1990 Riga, LAT
15 M. Karsums 5'10" 194 2/26/1986 Riga, LAT
91 R. Kenins 6'0" 201 2/28/1991 Riga, LAT
79 V. Pavlovs 6'5" 216 6/17/1989 Riga, LAT
24 M. Redlihs 5'11" 179 7/1/1984 Riga, LAT
5 J. Sprukts 6'3" 225 1/31/1982 Riga, LAT
3 J. Stals 6'3" 207 4/8/1982 Riga, LAT
12 H. Vasiljevs 5'11" 185 5/23/1976 Riga, LAT
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
37 O. Bartulis 6'3" 203 1/21/1987 Ogre, LAT
29 R. Freibergs 5'11" 192 5/17/1991 Riga, LAT
32 A. Kulda 6'2" 216 7/25/1988 Leipzig, GER
8 S. Ozolinsh 6'3" 214 8/3/1972 Sigulda, LAT
81 G. Pujacs 6'0" 216 6/11/1981 Riga, LAT
9 K. Redlihs 6'2" 205 1/15/1981 Riga, LAT
6 A. Rekis 5'11" 198 1/1/1979 Jurmala, LAT
11 K. Sotnieks 6'0" 192 1/29/1987 Riga, LAT
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
50 K. Gudlevskis 6'4" 190 7/31/1992 Aizkraukle, LAT
31 E. Masalskis 5'10" 187 3/31/1980 Riga, LAT
1 E. Mustukovs 6'0" 187 4/7/1984 Riga, LAT
Switzerland
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
10 A. Ambühl 5'9" 192 9/14/1983 Davos, SUI
48 M. Bieber 5'11" 187 3/14/1986 Zürich, SUI
23 S. Bodenmann 5'10" 187 3/2/1988 Urnäsch, SUI
96 D. Brunner NJD 5'10" 185 3/9/1986 Zürich, SUI
12 L. Cunti 6'0" 187 7/4/1989 Zürich, SUI
51 R. Gardner 6'6" 227 4/18/1978 Toronto, ON
70 D. Hollenstein 6'0" 194 10/15/1989 Mosnang, SUI
82 S. Moser NSH 6'2" 214 3/10/1989 Bern, SUI
22 N. Niederreiter MIN 6'2" 209 9/8/1992 Chur, SUI
28 M. Plüss 5'9" 187 4/5/1977 Bülach, SUI
88 K. Romy 6'0" 194 1/31/1985 La Chax-de-Fonds, SUI
24 R. Suri 6'0" 185 3/25/1989 Zürich, SUI
43 M. Trachsler 6'0" 198 7/15/1984 Zürich, SUI
14 R. Wick 6'2" 207 12/30/1985 Zuzwil, SUI
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
5 S. Blindenbacher 5'11" 194 3/15/1983 Bülach, SUI
16 R. Diaz VAN 5'11" 197 1/9/1986 Baar, SUI
90 R. Josi NSH 6'1" 192 6/1/1990 Bern, SUI
31 M. Seger 5'11" 190 12/17/1977 Ermatingen, SUI
7 M. Streit PHI 5'11" 191 12/11/1977 Bern, SUI
3 J. Vauclair 6'0" 203 10/2/1979 Bure, SUI
72 P. von Gunten 5'11" 183 2/10/1985 Sigriswil, SUI
6 Y. Weber VAN 5'11" 200 9/23/1988 Morges, SUI
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
R. Berra CGY 6'4" 194 1/3/1987 Bülach, SUI
J. Hiller ANA 6'2" 192 2/12/1982 Felben Wellhausen, SUI
T. Stephan 6'3" 187 1/21/1984 Zürich, SUI