ZURICH, Switzerland --
The Lions of ZSC Zurich issued a proud roar Tuesday night that was heard throughout the hockey world. In dramatic fashion at Hallenstadion, before a riotous home crowd, the ZSC Zurich Lions handed the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks
an unexpected 2-1 defeat in the Victoria Cup
"Us winning it tonight gives a little credit to our league," Zurich forward Ryan Gardner told NHL.com. "We did our country proud. We did Europe proud. It's a special night for us."
Fourth-liner Lukas Grauwiler made Tuesday night special when his put-back goal past Chicago's Cristobal Huet
midway through the second period gave Zurich a lead it would not relinquish.
"We'll always remember this," Zurich coach Sean Simpson
said. "It's a great occasion for these guys. Remember, only a couple of them played in the NHL and to have a chance to just play against a NHL team was great. To come out with a victory; geez!
But, this was no fluke. The Lions played the game of their lives, committing to the cause throughout the lineup to give Chicago a physical challenge it won't soon forget.
"Give them a lot of credit -- hey played great and they played hard," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville
Quenneville believes that his team might have been lulled into a sense of complacency on Tuesday after handing another Swiss team, HC Davos, a 9-2 drubbing on Monday night. Davos is the reigning Swiss champion and had already beaten Zurich once this season.
"We tried to make too many fancy plays early in the game and then we found ourselves in a hockey game and they found a way to win it," Quenneville said. "These guys had a real purpose in their game."
Gardner, a Canadian now on a Swiss passport, says the difference was that everyone on his team bought into Simpson's game plan.
"You never think you can beat a NHL team," said Gardner, whose father, uncle and grandfather all played in the NHL. "We knew we had a chance to win, though. We just played our hearts out and skated our (butts) off and put them under pressure. They are human beings too and they can have off nights."
It didn't look like Chicago would have an off night at the start Tuesday. Defenseman Cam Barker
put the Hawks on top when his awkward slapper found its way between the legs of Finnish goalie Ari Sulander just 6:12 into the contest.
But the Lions did not blink. Instead they redoubled their efforts.
"We made a game plan and the players worked hard," Simpson told NHL.com. "We just tried to take away time and space and stop them from coming to the middle of the ice. We have to be proud of ourselves. It was a great team effort."
A team effort that was punctuated by some timely goals from unlikely sources and a stonewalling performance by the 40-year-old Sulander that harkened back to his days when he was the backbone of the Finnish national team.
"Sulo plays great," Gardner told NHL.com. "He's 40 years old and he's incredible."
Sulander finished with 34 saves and kept the Lions in the game until the Swiss team could find some offense.
Patrik Bärtschi got the Hallenstadion crowd into a frenzy when he deked Cristobal Huet
on a breakaway and tucked a puck past the goalie before Barker could chase him down. Grauwiler then struck with his opportunistic goal after Huet left a juicy rebound in the slot and Barker could not clear it.
For the final 25 minutes, the Lions held on for dear life as the hawks stormed the Zurich zone looking for the equalizer. But the goal never came and the Hawks had to watch the Lions celebrate a victory few expected.
The New York Rangers
had won the inaugural Victoria Cup last September, beating Russian team Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4-3 on a last minute goal -- and it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Hawks would make it two in a row for the NHL.
Instead, the Blackhawks head to Finland to start the regular season with a two-game series against the Florida Panthers
in the 2009 NHL Compuware Premiere Helsinki series.
Judging by the post-game comments coming out of the mouths of the Blackhawks on Tuesday night, it will be a subdued plane ride.
"To have an effort like that it's definitely something that is tough to swallow," forward Patrick Kane
said. "But we'll have to learn from it and move on from here. We got bigger things ahead of us. It'll be tough, though, to put this one behind us."
It might be tough for the Lions to put this game behind them, as well, for different reason. After all, it's a win that changes the very landscape of the Victoria Cup by proving that European teams can not only play with, but beat, NHL competition.
"I was just happy to play against them," Simpson told NHL.com. To win is a dream. Wow!"