Americans Use Bad Break to Advance

VANCOUVER - Take a deep breath and exhale.

In a game of bounces and inches, the Americans’ 2-0 quarterfinal
victory over Switzerland had about 20,000 of them Tuesday. And in a
tournament where one loss determines success and failure, one bounce,
one split second can mean everything.

And when I say split second, I mean a split second.

With
time running out in the second period, Ryan Kesler threw the puck at
the net from the left corner, bouncing off of Swiss goaltender Jonas
Hiller’s stick, shoulder and eventually into the net. The scoreboard
clock was at 0:00, but the red light was on and the Americans were
celebrating.

But unlike football, the puck must cross the goal
line before time expires. The play was reviewed and a freeze frame
showed the puck lying on the red line as the clock struck zero.

No goal.

A
young U.S. club went into the locker room frustrated, but not rattled.
After two periods and a plethora of shots, they had solved the Swiss
puzzle known as Jonas Hiller, even if it happened a tenth of a second
too late.

“I think we picked up a lot of confidence from that,” forward Chris
Drury said. “I think you saw it with our first few shifts of the third
period where we were able to go to the net and create that power play.”

The Americans had outshot the Swiss 32-8 over the first 40 minutes,
owned a 2-to-1 advantage in faceoffs, and enjoyed three straight power
plays, but hadn’t scored. 

Within the first few minutes of the
third period Jamie Langenbrunner struck the post and Phil Kessel, who
had already struck iron in the first period, went from left to right
trying to put home a rebound into an empty net. Kessel missed, pushing
the puck wide, but Philippe Furrer pulled him down in the process,
putting the Americans on their fourth power play.

“We just kept
on fighting,” Kessel said. “Whatever you have to do, you just try and
get wins. We were positive, upbeat, we just had to keep attacking the
net.”

When the Americans went on the man advantage, there was
the sense that if they didn’t score this time, it wasn’t going to
happen. Langenbrunner was once again lodged in front of the net with
his Devils teammate Zach Parise when former Devil Brian Rafalski shot
the puck, nicking Parise’s stick as it was redirected into the net.

“It’s
not always the three best players who make the best scoring line,”
Parise said. “You need guys that are going to do different things, guys
willing to get into the corner and get the puck. Three fancy guys
aren’t always going to get it done.”

American goalie Ryan Miller
was unflappable again in limited work (19 saves), but the post made his
biggest save of the day. A shot by Switzerland’s Sandy Jeannin from the
faceoff circle hit the inner right side of the pipe, setting off the
red light and the crowd, but play continued because the puck never
crossed the line.

The puck instead slid to Ryan Kesler, who cleared it and raced up the
ice. He eventually got called for a high stick a fraction of a second
before tipping in a would-be goal.

In a matter of seconds a 1-0 game nearly became a 1-1 game and then a 2-0 game, and then back to 1-0 again.

Just wacky, wacky stuff.

Hiller
made 42 saves, but the Americans didn’t press him in the same way they had been pressed by the Canadians 72 hours earlier. The U.S. forecheck
lacked presence for two periods, allowing the Swiss to gain confidence
and the crowd.

But the non-goal at the end of the second period
turned out to be just the thing the Americans needed to spark them in
the third and into Friday’s semifinal.

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