Slovakia needed the game more and it showed.
Branko Radivojevic scored 15 seconds after the opening faceoff, Martin Bartek doubled the lead less than four minutes in and Slovakia went on to a 4-1 victory against the United States on Tuesday at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland, clinching a quarterfinal berth in the 2013 IIHF World Championship.
"We played good defense and we took everything they had in the neutral zone, so they had to dump the puck and then we battled it out," Slovakia defenseman Andrej Sekera told the IIHF website.
Ben Bishop made 22 saves for the U.S., which already had wrapped up its quarterfinal berth. The loss, however, sets up a matchup Thursday against Russia, which beat them 5-3 in the preliminary round.
"They played more desperate than we did, and that's something we have to take care of. We can't come out the way we did, especially with the quarterfinal coming up," U.S. forward Stephen Gionta said.
Switzerland 4, Belarus 1: Matthias Bieber scored the go-ahead goal with 9:01 left in the third period in a game at Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, as Switzerland finished with seven wins in as many tries in the preliminary round and passed Canada for first place in their group.
"We had a great run, but now it doesn't matter anymore," Switzerland coach Sean Simpson told the IIHF website. "Now we have to take our opponent in the quarterfinals. So far we have had a very consistent tournament, which we haven't always had."
Roman Josi's goal 1:13 into the first period held up much of the way before Yevgeni Kovyrshin evened the score for Belarus at 1:35 of the third.
Martin Hanzal, Zbynek Michalek, Radim Vrbata and Zbynek Irgl also scored and Ondrej Pavelec (11 saves) combined on the shutout with Pavel Francouz (six saves) for the Czechs, who will face Switzerland in the quarterfinals.
"It was a game we knew we had to win," Hanzal told the IIHF website. "We did what we were supposed to do to get to the quarterfinals. We had a meeting before the game and watched video and executed exactly what we were told by the coach. It was a great game. Now the tournament begins."
Finland 3, Latvia 2 (OT): Antti Pihlstrom scored with 1:14 left in the extra period as Finland won the Helsinki group and set up a quarterfinal matchup against Slovakia on Thursday.
Roberts Jekimovs had Latvia poised for a possible upset when he tied the game with 3:47 left in regulation, but Pihlstrom played hero by scoring on a breakaway past Kristers Kudlevskis.
"They had a long shift, and I got a half-breakaway there. I just shot it high and it went in," he told the IIHF website.
Gints Meija gave Latvia a brief lead in the first period before Sakari Salminen answered for Finland. Salminen then set up Mikael Granlund for the go-ahead goal in the second.
Sweden 4, Denmark 2: Henrik Sedin sparked a three-goal, third-period rally for Sweden by scoring the equalizer, then Martin Thornberg scored the go-ahead and insurance goals to stave off a pesky Denmark squad at Globe Arena.
Germany 3, France 2 (OT): Christian Ehrhoff's second goal of the game 65 seconds into the extra period lifted Germany past France at Hartwall Arena.