Men's Olympic Hockey: Team Canada Exorcises Demons Vs. Team Switzerland

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Men's Olympic Hockey: Team Canada Exorcises Demons Vs. Team Switzerland
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

In defeating Team Switzerland 3-2 in a shootout, yesterday, Canada pulled one out of the fire.

While early on, the game looked like it was going to be a repeat of Team Canada's 8-0 thumping of Team Norway only two days earlier, things changed quickly for the hometown heroes.

Making the score 2-0 only 35 seconds into the second on goals by Heatley and Marleau the Canadians looked in control.  Things changed for Canada, however, when Switzerland scored at 8:59 of the second.

Ivo Ruthemann's bullet of a shot from 40 feet out somehow managed to elude Brodeur even though he saw the puck the whole way. You're not going to score too many goals like that on Brodeur but the Swiss will take it!

That goal gave the Swiss the boost that they needed to turn the tide on the Canadians. It was also at that point that the immense pressure that Canada is under started to show.

While Canada outshot the Swiss 17-8 in the first period, the margin was only 10-9 for Canada in the second as the Swiss took the game to a suddenly reeling Canadian team.

The Swiss continued to fore-check aggressively and were rewarded with the tying goal with 10 seconds left in the second period. Patrick von Gunten threw the puck out front and it banked off of Canada's Patrick Marleau's skate and past Brodeur to send the team to their dressing rooms tied at two.

Canada wasn't discouraged however, throwing everything they had at the Swiss in the third. Switzerland's goaltender, Jonas Hiller, was equal to the task however as he made save after spectacular save to hold off the Canadian onslaught.

Hiller had fans remembering about how the Canadian team was stoned by Switzerland's Martin Gerber, only four years prior, in Turin, as Canada lost 2-0. That loss was the beginning of the end for a Canadian that would ultimately finish seventh in the 2006 Olympics and out of the medals.

Hiller's heroics continued to be on display as he made 18 saves in the third period to send the game to overtime.

Overtime failed to solve anything and it was up to the two goaltenders to decide the fate of the game in the shootout.

After neither team was able to score on their three shootout chances -- including Hiller's saves on Crosby, Toews and Getzlaf -- the Canadians sent Crobsy out again, to take the fourth shot.

As an aside, you should know that in international ice hockey, unlike the NHL, teams can repeat shooters after the third man has taken his shot. As such, Babcock gave Crosby another crack at it.

They say that you win with your best and you lose with your best and Babcock must have known that Crosby, who was held off the score sheet and had a frustrating game, wanted to be a difference maker. He wanted that goal and he wanted the win.

The look in his eyes, as he skated to the puck at center ice, was of a focused young man who had had enough.

This time, instead of trying a deke, Crosby did a quick fake and fired a wrister past Hiller on the short stick side. That left it up to Brodeur to stop Switzerland's Domenichelli, which he did as the Swiss player tried to go up high glove side.

The save won the game for Canada and allowed fans in attendance and watching on TV to breath a sigh of relief.

By almost duplicating their effort of four years earlier, against Canada, Team Switzerland continued to show that while they are not yet part of the top six international teams -- Canada, USA, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic -- they are certainly not far behind.

Almost more importantly than the win, for Canada, was the fact they have seemed to have exorcised their shootout demons from Turin. In addition, maybe this game provided the Canadian team with that little bit of adversity that they needed to really bump their game into gear.

There is no question that the Canadian team still has a lot of things to improve on, but we must give credit where credit is due in acknowledging that the Swiss hockey program is one that seems on the cusp of greatness.

Up next for Canada is the greatly anticipated Sunday game versus the United States. The US currently has one more point in the standings (six) than Canada (five) in virtue of their 6-1 regulation win over Norway.

Sunday's game will decide the winner of the Group A pool and determine the placement going forward into the elimination rounds. So hold onto your hats, ladies and gentleman, because Sunday's game could be one for the ages.

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