Shootout success for Finland
Switzerland finally found a way to beat Pekka Rinne in Finland's goal and force a shootout - but still couldn't solve the goalie in the extras and went down to Iiro Pakarinen's game-winning shot.
Following a 2-2 tie Rinne stopped five efforts in the shootout, including a breath-taking effort to deny Damien Brunner in the fifth round, flinging out an arm at the last possible moment to prevent a seemingly certain score. Then Pakarinen finally found a way past Reto Berra, going to the five-hole to give his goalie a deserved win.
"It's fun for us too in shootouts," the goalie said afterwards. "I try to stay on an even keel, because I hate to lose a shootout."
Pakarinen described his goalie as "terrific", and admitted that his game-winning shot was down to instinct as much as anything else. "There wasn't really anything in my mind when I was taking the shot," he said. "I decided before I set out that I would go for the five-hole and that worked out."
Veteran Finnish defenceman Jere Karalahti also hailed Rinne's performance.
"Everybody knows he's one of the best goalies in the world," he said. "He missed so much of the season, but he's playing really well for us. He's the big reason why we have a chance every night.
"It's a big win for us tonight, but I'm not happy that we gave up our lead on some silly mistakes."
In regulation Rinne stretched his unbeaten run between the piping to 169:35 before the Swiss clawed back a 0-2 deficit in the third period and took the game into overtime thanks to Reto Suri and Roman Josi.Continue reading
There both teams had their chances to win it: Petri Kontiola forced a Finnish power play and almost converted it himself, firing narrowly wide in the 62nd minute. At the other end the puck fizzed through the slot and just evaded Simon Moser's stick but it needed a shoot-out to deliver the verdict.
Earlier it took a fine goal to snap Rinne's run, with Kevin Fiala's diagonal bisecting the neutral zone and freeing Suri for a clear sight of goal. Suri shot early, and placed a low shot beyond the goalie's pad and inside the far post.
But even then it looked as though Finland's defensive clampdown would eke out a third straight Suomi success and see the Nordic nation home in on a quarter-final spot. Only with three minutes left in regulation time did Josi fire a shot low through a crowd of players; a deflection off a Finnish leg deceived the unsighted Rinne, who was left pounding the ice in frustration.
For much of the game the Nashville Predators goalie had seemed close to unbeatable, following up his impressive showings in wins over Germany (4-0) and Belarus (2-0). Aided by an attentive defence, he enjoyed a quiet first period, but still snapped onto the alert to glove away a rare Yannick Weber zinger in the 15th minute.
And in the second session he enjoyed his finest moment of the game with a flurry of saves showing him at his acrobatic best. First he blocked from Kevin Romy before sprawling across the crease to deny Thomas Rufenacht and recovering to stop a third attempt fired in from out wide.
While his impressive form has steered Finland away from trouble after a slow start to the competition, Rinne is reluctant to bask in the limelight. "It's tough to say what's going so well for me," he said. "I've been fortunate at times and the team is playing really well in front of me, so I'm feeling good."
On either side of those two incidents Finland opened up a two-goal lead through Tommi Kivisto and Olli Jokinen.
Kivisto gave his team a first period lead with a slapper from the point that simply lasered through a crowd scene in front of Berra, giving the Swiss goalie no chance. But that sixth-minute strike failed to ignite either team's offence. The first period saw the opponents share a miserly eight shots on goal between them, with Finland producing an effective reprise of the watchful defence that saw it shut out Belarus the previous day.
The second stanza saw greater endeavour from both teams, but delivered another goal for Finland. Berra and Mathias Seger got caught up trying to clear their lines, and Erik Haula slung the puck back to the net where Olli Jokinen stretched out a stick to sweep the puck home.
Swiss forward Andres Ambuhl complained that his team started sluggishly. "It was nice to come back but I think we slept for the first two periods and that's why we lost the game," he said.
At that stage it seemed that Finland was well on the way to completing a third successive win and erasing its slow start to the competition, while the Swiss were in grave danger of another morale-sapping defeat ahead of a relegation showdown against basement team Kazakhstan tomorrow.
But the Swiss revival changed that picture, with Switzerland able to draw confidence from its fightback, even if Ambuhl admitted it still faces a must-win game in its relegation battle with Kazakhstan, while the Finns must still tread carefully to confirm a spot in the last eight.
"Winning three in a row has been huge for us," said Rinne. "Hopefully we can keep that going, but now we have a tough match on Sunday against the U.S.
"We need to be ready for it, but I think me and the whole team are coming together now."