The entire nation of Canada just let out a collective sigh of relief as 22 year old Sidney Crosby scored the shootout winner in a hard fought battle against upstart Switzerland.
Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the game on goals by San Jose Sharks linemates Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau. However, after that Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller was absolutely phenomenal, shutting the door, and making one spectacular save after another to allow his teammates to mount a comeback.
The Swiss made the game 2-1 after 20 year old defenseman Drew Doughty turned the puck over at the offensive blueline, allowing the Swiss to counterattack 2 on 1 the other way. Ivo Rutheman elected to keep the puck, and the decision proved to be a wise one as he wired a wicked slapshot over Brodeur's glove. Then, in the last minute, with a delayed penalty coming to Chris Pronger after a retaliatory cross-check the Swiss got a lucky bounce, tying the game as a puck careened off Patrick Marleau's skate and past a helpless Martin Brodeur.
In the third period the Canadians threw everything they had at the Swiss, outshooting them 18-3. However, Hiller continued to prove he was up to the task, putting in a performance similar to the one his countryman Martin Gerber had 4 years ago when he pitched a shutout against Canada in Turin. Hiller's brilliance included consecutive highlight reel stops against Duck teammates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry late in the third.
Overtime provided little in the way of offensive opportunities, with both teams playing relatively safe, and after 65 minutes the game was still tied and off to a shootout.
Hiller had the advantage of Brodeur in the shootout, being far more familiar with the Canadian players, fellow NHL stars, than Brodeur was with the Swiss. He stopped all 3 Canadian shooters in the first rotation, including Sidney Crosby. On the other side Brodeur was just as good, stymying all three shooters he faced, though he admittedly did get a little lucky as a fortuitous puck bounce saved what looked to be a likely goal.
With international rules in play Canadian coach Mike Babcock was free to choose anyone he wanted to shoot 4th, including one of the first three players that had already shot. He gave Crosby another chance to win the game for his team and Sid the Kid didn't disappoint, snapping a perfectly placed shot low blocker side on Hiller to stake Canada to a 1-0 lead. Now it was up to Brodeur to shut the door at the other end. The 3 time Stanley Cup winner showed his coolness under pressure, getting his glove on a high shot, and giving Canada the win.
Because the win was earned in a shootout rather than in regulation time Canada only earns two points for the victory, rather than the three they would have had if they'd been able to sew the game up in regulation. That could wind up being a very costly point for Canada as it could prevent them from finishing in the top 2 overall, and thus miss out on a bye to the semi-finals.
Of course, there is still Team USA to contend with this coming Sunday. If Canada doesn't play a better game than they did against the Swiss the loss of the single point tonight could be the least of their worries.