TURIN, Italy (AP) - Only a gift goal prevented a terrible loss by surprising Switzerland. Not that the Swiss cared much - they're more interested in what happens during the rest of the unpredictable Olympic men's hockey tournament.
Ivo Ruthemann scored on a giveaway with 3 1/2 minutes remaining and Switzerland escaped a major upset, tying host Italy 3-3 Tuesday to secure second place in its qualifying group.
The Swiss (2-1-2) have been the most perplexing of the 12 teams in round-robin play, upsetting gold medal favorite Canada and the world champion Czech Republic only to tie weak non-qualifiers Germany and Italy in their final two Group A games.
"There was no point killing ourselves," forward Martin Pluss said. "We got a point so we should be happy. If we had used all our energy today, we would have no energy tomorrow."
No doubt they will be motivated if their quarterfinal opponent is Sweden, which would meet Switzerland on Wednesday if it loses to Slovakia later Tuesday.
Sweden coach Bengt-Ake Gustaffson, a former Swiss assistant, was quoted on Swedish TV saying it might benefit his team to lose Tuesday to ensure a matchup with Switzerland.
"It's not really nice, but he can say whatever he wants," Ruthemann said. "The last few years we have not beaten the Swedes, so maybe they think it's going to be an easy game again."
If Italy had held on to win after rallying from a 2-0 deficit, it would have been an upset equivalent to the Swiss beating Canada last weekend. The Italians are No. 19 in the world - barely ahead of Japan - yet led the No. 8 Swiss until a dreadful turnover cost them their biggest hockey victory ever.
Carrying the puck out of the Italian end, forward Mario Chitarroni feathered a soft, no-look pass toward a teammate. Ruthemann intercepted the pass along the left circle hash marks and beat goalie Jason Muzzatti from in close, causing Chitarroni to grab his helmet in disbelief and smack his stick on the ice in frustration.
Italy almost pulled it out, but Bob Nardella's shot from the right circle hit the far post with 1:10 remaining.
"We weren't really there in our head," Ruthemann said. "We didn't play our game, the intense game we have played."
Even a tie was enough to earn the Italians (0-3-2) a long, loud postgame ovation from a near capacity crowd, and they skated with their sticks raised as a salute to the cheers.
"We need to use this as a stepping stone to grow the game of hockey here in Italy," Muzzatti said.
Earlier, it looked like a rout was possible when Switzerland's Romano Lemm and Patrick Fischer scored in the opening seven minutes to make it 2-0.
But Joe Busillo and Carter Trevisani answered with power play goals, and Tony Iob put Italy up 3-2 about six minutes into the third off a rebound that deflected off Colorado Avalanche goalie David Aebischer's right pad.