KOSICE – Sweden are off to the quarter-finals of the IIHF World Championship after a 2-0 win over Switzerland. Mikael Backlund broke a 0-0 game when stepped in on the left wing over the Swiss blue line and unloaded with a shot that found its way into top left hand corner behind Swiss goalie Leonardo Genoni. The goal came 7:47 into the third period.
Sweden-Switzerland 2-0 (0-0, 0-0, 2-0) Game Sheet Photos
"I got the pass that was rimmed around the boards and I tipped it to [Staffan] Kronwall and let him know that I wanted the puck back," said a happy Backlund afterwards. "I just tried to hit the net and fortunately, it went in."
Backlund added an empty net goal with 32 seconds remaining to clinch it. An automatic goal was awarded by the referee after Switzerland's Julien Sprunger threw his stick and knocked the puck away from Backlund as he came in on the empty net.
Swedish netminder Viktor Fasth turned aside 31 shots, picking up his tournament leading third shutout.
"We had a really good penalty kill today," said Backlund. "They had a lot of opportunities [on the power play] but we blocked shots well and our goalie was great for us tonight. He's been outstanding for us this tournament."
The win gives Sweden ten points (three wins, one overtime loss) and guarantees them a place in the quarter-finals. Sweden has never missed the quarter-finals since they were played first time in 1992. The Swedes have only missed a top-eight ranking once, in 1937. Thanks to this result Team USA has its quarter-final berth assured as well.
Switzerland has only three points (one overtime win, one overtime loss, two loses) and is almost eliminated from making the quarter-finals. Only a miracle can lift them over fourth-ranked Norway. The Norwegians have five points and play their last game tomorrow against France while the Swiss face Team USA.
It would be only the second time in the last five World Championships the Swiss would fall short of the quarter-finals, and it would come as a big blow to their program after finishing in fifth place one year ago.
The game continued a disturbing trend for the Swiss – a lack of offence in crucial games. Last year in the quarter-finals against Germany they were shut out 1-0. In their previous quarter-final appearance ('08 in Quebec vs. Russia) they were shut out 6-0. In '07 in the quarter-final game against Canada they lost 4-1.
"We got a lot of chances at the start of the third period, we didn't score. Right after, they got the first goal," said Genoni. "Their goalie played really well tonight."
The first two periods were strange in that, for a game that meant so much – particularly to the Swiss, in keeping the quarter-final hopes alive - there didn’t seem to be a massive sense of urgency. The game had the feel of a regular season league contest in many ways.
Mind you, it was difficult for either coach to get a regular line rotation going because of all the minor penalties being called. There were eight minor penalties called in the first half of the game – five against the Swiss, three against Sweden.
Switzerland spent almost half of the first period short handed. They were assessed four consecutive, non-overlapping, minor penalties. Sweden pressed on each of the power plays, but couldn’t solve the tenacious Swiss penalty killing or the goalkeeping of Genoni.
Switzerland was 0 for 5 on the power play; the Swedes were no better – they were 0 for 7.
"We were focussed on winning this game and qualifying for the quarter-finals," said Backlund. "This [win] makes it easier for playing tomorrow's game."