Parise’s 1-2 punch sinks Swiss
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Zach Parise had shots blocked, stopped, and turned aside by goal posts before he finally pinballed one in off stone-wall goalie Jonas Hiller in the third period.
He added an empty-netter in the closing seconds and sent the surprising U.S. men’s hockey team into an improbable place in the Olympic semifinals. Ryan Miller made 19 saves Wednesday to backstop the 2-0 victory and move the Americans within two wins of its first men’s hockey gold medal in 30 years.
In front of a full crowd that traded chants for each team, Hiller gave the Swiss a chance to pull off the upset by making 42 saves. He had stymied Parise several times earlier, but couldn’t keep the New Jersey Devils star down all the way.
Parise, the top-line forward who struck posts with two other shots, got a stick on Brian Rafalski’s shot and bounced it off the mask and arm of Hiller before the puck sneaked past his pad and inside the left post 2:08 into the third. The goal came 12 seconds into a power play.
He then sealed the win by scoring into an empty net with 11.2 seconds left. The United States has earned two of its four wins in these games against Switzerland, including a tournament-opening 3-1 victory last Tuesday.
Until Parise scored, the signature moment in this one was a near goal the U.S. thought it scored to break the deadlock with less than one second left in the middle period.
Ryan Kesler’s shot struck Hiller’s blocker and popped in the air. The Anaheim Ducks goalie swatted it with his stick and deflected it off his shoulder before it fell behind him.
The puck tantalizingly slid onto the goal line and toward the net as the clock struck 0.0. A video replay confirming no goal sent the pro-Swiss crowd into jubilation as the teams headed to the dressing rooms.
A wild sequence in the third had both teams believing they had scored.
At 3:40, Sandy Jeannin sent a wide-angled shot that appeared to beat Miller inside the right post. The red light came on, but play continued. Before the next whistle, Ryan Suter fired a shot past Hiller. That goal was disallowed because of a high-sticking penalty against teammate Ryan Kesler.
Even with the benefit of three power plays in the second period, the U.S. couldn’t forge much of an attack. The Americans’ best scoring chances came at even strength, but when they wound up for drives in good areas many of their shots were blocked before they got to Hiller.
The Swiss were content to clog the middle and contest every pass and each puck carrier as he tried to get into the offensive zone. Bobby Ryan rushed toward the blue line before being upended with a hip check by Mathias Seger that flipped him with 5:15 left in the second.
The only thing that got into either net in the opening two periods was Dustin Brown’s stick that was stuck in the back of the Swiss goal.
Switzerland generated only eight shots on Miller through 40 minutes while allowing 32.
Hiller kept the Swiss in the game during the first period when the Americans held an 18-4 shots edge. Switzerland used an effective forecheck to block passing lanes and pressure every U.S. player in possession of the puck.
Passing was a problem on the uneven ice that kept pucks bouncing. Parise had three prime scoring chances, but was twice denied – including once with the U.S. short-handed – and had a 2-on-1 with Devils teammate Jamie Langenbrunner broken up. Phil Kessel later fired a drive that struck the right post and crossbar behind Hiller.
NOTES: The two previous times the Americans won on Feb. 24 they captured the gold medal (1960 and 1980). … Forwards Dustin Brown and Chris Drury played in their 50th international game in a U.S. uniform.
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