KHODYNKA--Canada advanced to the semi-finals with a 5-1 win over Switzerland Thursday afternoon in Moscow, but it wasn't pretty. The Canadians now face Sweden on Saturday night for a spot in the finals, renewing a rivalry that saw Canada win both the 2003 and 2004 IIHF World Championship gold medals at the expense of Tre Kronor.
The Swiss go home with a solid eighth-place showing. They also finished eighth each year between 2003 and 2005 before falling to ninth in Riga 2006.
"This is a learning game for us," said Swiss Head Coach Ralph Krueger. "We knew they'd be well-prepared, and we would have needed perfection for victory."
"I was involved with Swiss hockey for eight of the best years of my life, so I knew it would be a difficult game against Switzerland," said Canadian Head Coach Andy Murray. "There's not a country that's made the steps that the Swiss have in improving."
Leading the way offensively for Canada, Matthew Lombardi had two goals and Rick Nash had a goal and assist, and Shane Doan, Dion Phaneuf, and Eric Staal added two assists apiece. Lombardi has racked up five goals in his last two games, and leads Canada with six overall.
Switzerland was outmatched in size and speed and skill, the big three factors in any team's ability to succeed. Canada cycled the puck with ease and created quite a few good chances, but goalie Jonas Hiller was very solid for the Swiss.
The Swiss managed only to ice the puck several times in the first, and their occcasional forays into the Canadian end were often the result of a Canadian line change rather than a great Swiss attack. To their credit, though, they gathered like wolves around their goalie and were effective in preventing a second shot on Canada's attack.
Canada finally opened the scoring at 15:22 thanks to a bit of skill and bit of luck. Nash made a nice little steal of the puck behind the Swiss net, but he fanned on his centering pass and the puck wound up on the stick of Sandy Jeannin. He, in turn, muffed the clearing attempt, and Lombardi was right there to steal the puck. His quick shot fooled Hiller. It was Lombardi's fifth goal in Moscow.
"We knew they were going to be aggressive," said Staal. "We knew we needed to play strong defense and counter. We were able to capitalize on Lombardi's [first] goal, and that got the ball rolling. Our special teams came up big. It was good to get that start."
The game settled into an uncomfortable dullness for a while, as the Swiss wanted merely to keep the score close and the Canadians didn't have much of a challenge to respond to. Patric Della Rossa had a great chance to tie the game on a partial 2-on-1, but Canadian goalie Dwayne Roloson slid across the crease to block the shot.
Jamal Mayers doubled Canada's lead midway through the second on a fine solo effort, bringing the puck out of the corner and coming out the near side of the goal. He slid it to the far side past Hiller for his fourth goal of the tournament.
The Swiss came right back, though, when Paul DiPietro blasted a slapshot from the high slot past Roloson to the stick side just 38 seconds later. The Canadian-born DiPietro scored both goals in Switzerland's dramatic 2-0 upset of Canada at last year's Olympics. But Nash restored the two-goal lead when he banged home a loose puck in the crease on a 5-on-3 late in the period.
"We made too many mistakes in shorthanded situations," said Krueger. "We lost the game because of a lack of discipline, and Canada used their opportunities."
At 6:03 of the third, Lombardi connected for his second of the night on the power play when he banged in a loose puck. Dion Phaneuf took the original shot, but Hiller couldn't control the rebound and defenceman Beat Forster couldn't take care of Lombardi on the doorstep.
"We scored on some big 5-on-3's in that second period," said Roloson. "If we don't score in those situations, they build momentum, and then you never know what can happen in the game."
Shea Weber closed out the scoring with a long-range blast that eluded the beleaguered Hiller, who faced 43 shots.
"We knew the kind of style we needed to play," said Staal. "You gotta keep your hands down when you finish your checks, and you have to be disciplined. These are the games when you have to be better."