STOCKHOLM – Switzerland scored three goals in the third period to defeat the Czech Republic for their third win in a row against the world's best. They started with a win over Sweden and then Canada.
"It was a tough opening schedule for us, and coming away with three wins against these top nations is more than we could expect," said an enthused coach Sean Simpson. "We used it as a challenge. I thought if we could get one win in these three games we would have a good start."
For the Czechs, 1-2, this marks their worst World Championship start in 19 years. The last time the Swiss started 3-0 was in 2010, but they topped Latvia and Italy before beating Canada that year.
The Czechs fired 39 shots at Reto Berra, playing for the first time this year, but the goalie was near to perfect as can be expected.
"We had a lot of confidence after our first two games," said Andres Ambühl, "but we knew we hard to work hard again. We had a slow start but came on strong."
But what about going 3-0 by knocking off three of hockey's greatest powers?
"We always thought it was possible," Ambühl suggested, "but we knew we had to work hard. The key is to keep our feet on the ground now."
The Czechs had their best chance of the period courtesy of Zbynek Irgl. He burst through the middle between two Swiss defencemen and got a good shot on goal, but Reto Berra was equal to the task and kept the game scoreless.
Just a few minutes later the Swiss got what turned out to be the only power play of the period – and they converted. Ryan Gardner brought the puck in over the Czech blue line on the rush and watched as Ambühl got into position.
Gardner made a perfect pass and Ambühl rifled the puck past Alexander Salak at 17:56 to give the evermore confident Swiss a 1-0 lead after the first period.
"We had a couple of similar chances before and nothing happened," Ambühl described. "This time we tried to make the pass in the middle. I was open. It was a nice pass, and luckily it went in."
That lead doubled at 6:36 when Nino Niederreiter scored for the third straight game. Zbynek Michalek blocked a pass through the crease, but the puck sat there for a split second and “El Nino” knocked it in for a 2-0 lead.
It wasn’t until later in the period that the Czechs got their first power play of the night, and they made no mistake with the opportunity. Jiri Hudler had a loose puck roll right to him in the slot, and he wired a shot past Berra to cut the lead in half.
And then with only 48 seconds left, Hudler tied the game with his second goal of the period. Irgl made a quick pass from the boards in front and Hudler had two smacks at the pouch when Ambühl failed to take his man. Hudler knocked in the second attempt to complete the comeback in the middle period and set the stage for a dramatic final period.
Not only did the Swiss kill off an early penalty in the third, they got the go-ahead goal at 5:47. Martin Plüss came out from behind the goal and tried to jam the puck past Salak, but the goalie was there to block the shot which then caromed off Simon Moser's skate and over the goal line.
Switzerland went up by two thanks to a pair of great plays. Denis Hollenstein got to a loose puck before anyone and one-handed the puck in front where Simon Bodenmann, playing in his first World Championship, poked the puck in at 13:22 to shock the Czechs.
Coach Alois Hadamczik pulled Salak with 3:16 remaining but to no effect. Reto Suri added an empty netter with 39.5 seconds left on the clock.
"I expected them to play well but I thought a lot of times in the game we were the better team," Hudler said. "We had a lot of chances, but they played smarter."
"We have such team spirit in this group," Swiss defenceman Philippe Furrer added. "We bounced back after they tied the game. We just didn't accept being tied. Everybody worked so hard to get back into the flow. It's amazing what we can reach. We've seen that so far here."