Switzerland broke open a scoreless game with two goals early in the second period and got fine goaltending from Martin Gerber en route to a 3-2 win over Sweden in Stockholm on the opening day of the IIHF World Hockey Championship.
Johan Fransson scored a power-play goal at 18:10 of the second period to get Sweden within a goal. But Ryan Gardner scored into an empty net with 33 seconds left for Switzerland, and that proved to be the game-winner when Simon Hjalmarsson scored for Sweden with 11 seconds remaining.
Former NHL goaltender Gerber stopped 29 shots for Switzerland, which faces Canada on Sunday. Jacob Markstrom of the Florida Panthers made 21 saves for Sweden, which plays the Czech Republic on Saturday.
"We knew this would be a tough game for Sweden because they're hosts," Swiss captain Mathias Seger, playing in his record-tying 15th World Championship, told the IIHF website. "They had a lot of pressure, and we didn't have any. We tried to make the pressure more intense on the ice. It was close to a perfect game for us."
Czech Republic 2, Belarus 0
In the other opening-day game at Globe Arena in Stockholm, Jakub Voracek scored the winning goal, Radim Vrbata finished with a goal and an assist, and Alexander Salak stopped all 21 shots he faced as the Czech Republic blanked Belarus.
Voracek, who scored a career-best 22 goals this season with the Philadelphia Flyers, connected on a two-man advantage 11:03 into the first period after Alexander Kitarov and Andrei Filichkin took penalties six seconds apart. A tic-tac-toe passing play saw Zbynek Michalek find Vrbata, who set up Voracek for a one-timer.
Vrbata, the No. 2 scorer for the Phoenix Coyotes, added some insurance 9:57 into the third when he scored with 12 seconds remaining on an interference call against Mikhail Stefanovich by knocking home the rebound of Ladislav Smid's slap shot.
"It has been difficult for us because we've only been together three days and we are waiting for a few more players, possibly from the NHL," Czech Republic forward Jiri Novotny said. "But still we won the game and that's what counts."
The Czech Republic plays its next game Saturday against Sweden. Belarus returns to the ice Sunday against Slovenia.
Finland 4, Germany 3 (OT)
Veli-Matti Savinainen scored off a deflection 1:58 into overtime to give Finland a victory against Germany in front of a raucous home crowd at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.
Germany appeared headed for a victory after Torsten Ankert's slap shot beat Joni Ortio with 3:05 left in regulation. But Petri Kontiola's second goal of the game, with 1:29 remaining in the third period, knotted the score for Finland. Kontiola, who finished with a three-point night, beat Robb Zepp for the equalizer, and Savinainen got his stick on a Sakari Salminen drive from the left circle to again bring the Hartwall Arena fans out of their seats.
"It wasn't an easy game but that's what I expected too," Ortio, a 2009 Calgary Flames draft pick, told the IIHF website. "But we got two points and we rallied back from a deficit, which was great."
Janne Pesonen had the lone goal of the second, putting Finland back in front with 33 seconds remaining when he tipped in a Juuso Hietanen shot for another power-play goal. But Germany again responded; Christian Ehrhoff scored a man-advantage goal of his own 2:34 into the third, setting up the dramatic finish.
"Losing the three points late like that is tough, but hopefully we'll feel a little better about the one point [Saturday]," Ehrhoff said.
Finland next faces Slovakia on Saturday. Germany next plays Sunday against Russia.
Slovakia 6, France 2
In the other opening-day game in Helsinki, Tomas Zaborsky and Libor Hudacek each had a goal and an assist and 12 players picked up at least one point as Slovakia routed France.
"I think we played well for the first game," Satan, the team captain, told the IIHF website. "We had a good start, very active with a lot of chances. In the second period we got some more goals and I think from that point on we controlled the game."
Rastislav Stana carried a shutout into the third period and finished with 24 saves.
Huet gave up quick goals by Satan and Radivojevic in the third period and was replaced by Fabrice Lhenry. Damien Raux and Damien Fleury got France on the board and made it 5-2 before Hudacek closed the scoring for Slovakia.
Slovakia next faces Finland on Saturday. France plays Austria on Sunday.
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