VANCOUVER -- Canada tasted the incredible pressure it is under here at the Winter Olympics on Thursday night, and a relieved Sidney Crosby seemed to enjoy soaking up every second of it.
Crosby scored the shootout winner, beating Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller with a hard snap shot that found its way into the tiny space over the left pad and under the catching glove, to lift Canada to a 3-2 win in a thriller at Canada Hockey Place.
"I don't think it's a bad thing," Crosby told NHL.com about facing adversity early in the tournament. "Every game is a must-win in this tournament. That's kind of the common theme you are going to see and it's not going to get any less as the tournament goes on.
"As much as we want to win in regulation, this is probably good to go through this and get that feeling of desperation where every play is so important. It was tight there and we found a way."
The Canadians outshot Switzerland 46-23 including a wide 18-3 margin in the third period, but Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller was awesome and single-handedly forced this game into a shootout.
Canada's most important and recognizable player admitted it was one of those "wow" games, but he also thinks he knows what the Canadians have to do better when they play Team USA in the tournament's most anticipated game on Sunday.
"I thought through the first half we had some chances and we might have passed up a few shots to make an easier or prettier play I guess, but we're continuing to learn," Crosby said. "It's a short-term event and you have to get better and we'll look to do that here for the next one."
He insisted that Canada did not take Switzerland lightly.
"No, we knew what to expect," Crosby said. "We respected them and we knew they were going to play hard. Again, it's one game and anything can happen. They get a bounce off our guy there to tie the game and we basically carried the play throughout after that and couldn't put it in. Hot goalie, you know. Nine times out of 10 you get those chances in the third and you end up winning the game, but they made us work a little harder for it."
Crosby thanked goalie Martin Brodeur for allowing him a second chance in the shootout. He went first for Canada, but he tried to deke to his forehand and beat Hiller low near the left post. Hiller stopped the puck with his outstretched right leg.
Brodeur, though, was perfect against three shooters and Canada coach Mike Babcock went back to Crosby in the fourth round of the scoreless shootout. This time he skated between the circles and just fired.
"On the first one I tried to get it in, but he's pretty quick and he read it pretty well," Crosby said. "I just tried to not get too fancy on the second one and just make the most of it. You don't get too many second chances like that, so Marty did a great job and allowed me to get a second crack at it."
The end was great for Crosby, but there may be a concern going forward of who can play on his right wing. Rick Nash has been fine on his left side, but Babcock has now used Patrice Bergeron, Jarome Iginla and Jonathan Toews on the other wing.
He started the tournament with Bergeron there, but switched to Iginla and he wound up with a hat trick against Norway. The chemistry didn't return against the Swiss, so Babcock changed things around again and finished the game with Toews in that spot.
"Well, I didn't think they were good tonight," Babcock said of the Crosby-Nash-Iginla trio. "I thought our San Jose line was our best line…but as a group, when you go through our whole team and you look at the high end of their game, we weren't as good as we were capable of being."
With two days to pore over everything, it'll be interesting to see who Babcock has Crosby playing with in Sunday's pivotal game against Team USA -- though the Canadians got only two points for the shootout win, the winner of that Canada-USA game will win Group A and earn a bye into the quarterfinals, as well as an extra day of rest.
"It's a real good question; good thing I have two days to figure all that out," Babcock said. "When you go through the whole thing, all of us have to be better. Is that line combinations or is that just individually we have to be better?"
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