Switzerland advanced to meet the top-seeded Americans by yanking out a stay-alive 3-2 shootout win over Belarus on Tuesday in the first of four qualifying-round games.
The Swiss, shooting first, got goals by Thomas Deruns and Rolando Lemm in the first two rounds of the shootout. Dmitri Meleshko scored for Belarus in the second round, but after Andrei Mezin stopped Ivo Ruthemann, Swiss goaltender Jonas Hiller foiled Sergei Kostitsyn for the win.
The victory earned the Swiss a second crack at the Americans, who beat then 3-1 in the opening game of the tournament a week ago. Team USA went on to beat Norway and Canada to win Group A and finish first in the round-robin portion of the tournament.
The Canada Hockey Place crowd clearly nominated Belarus for underdog status in the third period, breaking into chants of "BEL-ah-ROOS" at regular intervals.
The teams entered the final 20 minutes tied at 2-2. Mezin, who has played his share of big international games, was getting more work than Hiller in the Swiss net. Switzerland took 26 shots in the first two periods, compared to only 11 for Belarus.
The shots in the third period were much more even, testing both goaltenders. Hiller made about three saves that could have been characterized as better would-be goals when sized up against the two he surrendered. He muffed a dribbling puck on the first Belarus goal, scored in the first minute.
Belarus' second goal, at 15:42 of the second period, developed when Hiller couldn't cleanly handle a deflected point shot by forward Aleksei Ugarov on the power play, leaving the puck for a wide-open Konstantin Zakharov to slam into the net.
Mezin, you will remember if your Olympic memory is sharp, pulled off a stunning elimination upset of Team Sweden at the 2002 Winter Game despite facing 50 shots from Nick Lidstrom and other NHL stars. And if your New York Rangers acumen is on scent today, you know Mezin stopped 40 of 44 to barely lose to the NHL club, 4-3, in the first-ever Victoria Cup in Europe in 2008.
New York Islanders and Swiss captain Mark Streit played another strong game, totaling 30:32 of ice time -- more than five minutes longer on ice than any teammate. He assisted on Switzerland's second goal -- but more important disrupted most rushes by Aleksei Kalyuzhny and Kostitsyn of the Montreal Canadiens and Konstantin Koltsov. One of his best plays came with just under 12 minutes left, knocking down an open Belarus forward, Sergei Demagin, about six feet in front of Hiller.
The game did not start out well for Hiller and his Swiss teammates. With just 59 seconds gone, Kalyuzhny slipped behind defenseman Severin Blindenbacher to receive a 90-foot pass from teammate Viktor Kostiuchenok. But the pass ricocheted off Kalyuzhny 's blade for a seemingly harmless redirect on goal.
However, Hiller couldn't handle the knuckling puck. Kalyuzhny kept skating and poked the loose puck between the Anaheim goalie's leg pads. There was a video review because the puck sort of meandered under Hiller and past the goal line, but it was ruled as a good goal.
The Swiss tied it at 12:25 when Julien Sprunger raced down the slot during a power play, took a quick pass by Wick and lifted a quick shot over Mezin's glove.
The power play helped the Swiss take the lead 7:07 into the second period. Streit's left-point blast hit a body in front and caromed right to Hnat Domenichelli for an easy tap-in at Mezin's left post.