VANCOUVER — The longer it went, the tighter the Americans got.
They clanged shots off the post, then the crossbar. A wrist shot early in the game by Phil Kessel that looked like a bad omen hit both. Everything else the U.S. hockey team threw on net Wednesday, Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller smothered.
But Zach Parise put all that frustration aside, deflecting a wrist shot from Brian Rafalski early in the third period, then scored into an empty net late to seal a 2-0 quarterfinal win that sends the United States to the semifinals against Finland, a 2-0 winner over the Czech Republic.
"Relief and excitement, especially in a tight game like that when you are doing everything but score," said the Devils' Parise, who failed to score on his first 13 shots of the tournament. "The goalie was great, and we did a good job of sticking with it. We were pretty confident and said just keep putting pucks at him."
Ryan Miller of the Sabres made 19 saves to backstop the victory and move the Americans within two wins of its first men's hockey gold medal in 30 years.
"I'm really proud of them for not losing their cool or letting their expectations of beating the Swiss get in the way of our plan," coach Ron Wilson said.
For a while, though, there was a chance their stirring 5-3 win over Canada on Sunday might go for naught. U.S. general manager Brian Burke said he wasn't happy with his team's play through the preliminary round and cautioned that the Americans had to improve quickly if they hoped to make a run.
The wait for production from the top scoring line ended just in time.
"I thought after the first two or three games I could play better. I knew I would," said Parise, who had no goals and three assists in the opening three games. "It's always nice to get rewarded. I just kept wanting to keep shooting."
In front of a full crowd that traded chants for each team, Hiller, the Ducks' No. goalie, gave the Swiss a chance to pull off the upset by making 42 saves.
"We had high expectations," said Hiller, teary-eyed, his voice cracking. "We knew we had a solid team and we can upset some of the big ones, and that's what we tried to do. I wish we could have upset them a little more. … I am quite disappointed right now."
First Period—No scoring. Penalties—Ryan Callahan, United States (Hooking), 6:25.
Second Period—No scoring. Penalties—Ryan Malone, United States (Roughing), 2:41; Raffaele Sannitz, Switzerland (Interference), 6:04; Hnat Domenichelli, Switzerland (tripping), 11:19; Hnat Domenichelli, Switzerland (Hooking), 13:36.
Third Period—1, United States, Zach Parise (Brian Rafalski, Paul Stastny), 2:08 (pp). 2, United States, Zach Parise (unassisted), 19:48 (en). Penalties—Philippe Furrer, Switzerland (tripping), 1:56; Ryan Kesler, United States (High Sticking), 4:07.
Shots on Goal—United States 18-14-12—44. Switzerland 4-4-11—19. Goalies—United States, Ryan Miller. Switzerland, Jonas Hiller. Switzerland, Jonas Hiller, 59:48.
Canada steamrolls surprised Russia
A superpower showdown quickly became a super letdown.
Canada ended 50 years of frustration against Russia, surging into the semifinals with a 7-3 romp by going back to the game they play best. Canada manhandled the Russians' star forwards, took control early and never backed off.
For a while, it looked like it might be 17-3.
"They came out like gorillas out of a cage," backup goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov said.
The physical, focused Canadians took advantage of terrible goaltending by Evgeni Nabokov and superior depth and size to open leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in the first period and 6-1 early in the second period, and the unexpected rout was on.
"We just wanted to step on the gas pedal from the drop of the puck," Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said.
Alex Ovechkin, the gifted scorer? He was a nonfactor — no goals and no impact. The word in the Russian camp — the players haven't talked much — was that Ovechkin was determined to play one of the best games of his life.
"I think we was not ready for first five minutes of game, and when we wake up, it was too late," the Capitals star said. "It was 3-0, and it's pretty hard to come back, especially that game."
The Ducks' Corey Perry upstaged Russia's big-name, big-contract forwards with two goals. The Predators' Shea Weber also scored and set the tone by upending the Thrashers' Maxim Afinogenov with a board-rattling hit in the opening seconds, and the Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and two assists. And Dan Boyle frustrated Nabokov, his Sharks teammate, by scoring a power-play goal and creating two.
And that was only the start.
Almost as surprising as the score was how Canada pulled it off. Sidney Crosby went scoreless in a subordinate role, with less celebrated players and grit negating Russia's stars and supposedly superior speed.
"I saw a team that wants to win and play smart hockey and another team that didn't play smart hockey and didn't play with passion," said the Coyotes' Bryzgalov, who replaced Nabokov early in the second. "I don't know why. Every one of us has to ask this question of themselves."
Nabokov allowed several soft goals early, and the letdown was evident on a downcast Russian bench.
Coach Slava Bykov didn't pull Nabokov until Weber scored at 4:07 of the second to make it 6-1. Given the looks on the players' faces, the move came about two or three goals too late.
"I don't think they surprised us with the physicality but how hungry they were," Nabokov said.
First Period—1, Canada, Ryan Getzlaf (Dan Boyle, Chris Pronger), 2:21. 2, Canada, Dan Boyle (Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau), 12:09 (pp). 3, Canada, Rick Nash (Jonathan Toews, Mike Richards), 12:55. 4, Russia, Dmitri Kalinin (Anton Volchenkov, Sergei Fedorov), 14:39. 5, Canada, Brenden Morrow (Dan Boyle, Duncan Keith), 18:18. Penalties—Brent Seabrook, Canada (Interference), 7:58; Anton Volchenkov, Russia (Holding), 10:26.
Second Period—6, Canada, Corey Perry (Ryan Getzlaf, Duncan Keith), 3:10. 7, Canada, Shea Weber (Jonathan Toews, Jarome Iginla), 4:07. 8, Russia, Maxim Afinogenov (Ilya Kovalchuk, Denis Grebeshkov), 4:46. 9, Canada, Corey Perry (Eric Staal, Ryan Getzlaf), 9:51. 10, Russia, Sergei Gonchar (Evgeni Malkin), 11:40 (pp). Penalties—Canada (Too Many Players On Ice), 11:27; Konstantin Korneyev, Russia (Interference), 12:58; Duncan Keith, Canada (tripping), 19:14.
Third Period—No scoring. Penalties—Sergei Gonchar, Russia (Hooking), 2:01; Russia (Too Many Players On Ice), 5:11; Chris Pronger, Canada (Holding), 14:37; Alexander Semin, Russia (High Sticking), 17:17; Dan Boyle, Canada (Interference), 17:17.
Shots on Goal—Canada 21-9-12—42. Russia 12-8-8—28.Goalies—Russia, Evgeni Nabokov. Canada, Roberto Luongo. Russia, Ilya Bryzgalov, 24:07.
|Playoff qualifiers||Quarterfinals||Semifinals||Gold medal||Semifinals||Quarterfinals||Playoff qualifiers|
|1. United States 2||2. Sweden|
|8. Switzerland 3||1. United States||late||7. Slovakia 4|
|8. Switzerland 0||7. Slovakia|
|9. Belarus 2 (SO)||3 p.m., Ch. 8||3:15 p.m., Ch. 8||9:30 p.m., CNBC||10. Norway 3|
|4. Finland 2||3. Russia 3|
|5. Czech Republic 3||4. Finland||6. Canada||6. Canada 8|
|5. Czech Republic 0||6. Canada 7|
|12. Latvia 2 OT||11. Germany 2|
|10 p.m., MSNBC|