It was rough justice for a Swiss team, which was never behind in a game full of incident, but the Czechs once again showed great resilience after recovering from 1-3 and 2-4 to tie it 4-4.
You couldn’t take your eyes off this one for a second. Goals galore, penalties a-plenty and two teams going at it hell-for-leather. This game had all the thrills and spills of a play-off showdown, and we’re not yet halfway through the group phase here in Copenhagen. Maybe the quality of hockey was not always at the very highest level – the procession of minor penalties told its own story – but the action was unrelenting.
Czech coach Josef Jandac praised the way Russia, his team's next opponent, had played calmly throughout the tournament and the contrast with the helter-skelter action of his players was obvious.
"In each of our games so far, we've struggled with individual errors," he said. "It happened today, guys making mistakes in front of the net, reacting too slowly. And we've taken a lot of penalties. We had 26 minutes tonight, almost have the game. It drains your strength - you can't play like that."
Niederreiter wasn’t immune to the skirmishes that were building up around the ice and he was sent to cool his heels along with Andrej Nestrasil after the two got tangled up while the puck sat on top of the Czech net. Soon after, the Czechs had a three-on-one break that ended when Tomas Hyka failed to control Radek Faksa’s feed. It was a warning for the Swiss defence.
A Czech power play brought the teams level. Martin Necas, a teenage prospect having an impressive tournament, got the assist as Dominik Kubalik’s one timer flashed past Leonardo Genoni’s short side. Genoni made a huge stop in the last seconds of the period, denying Faksa on Roman Cervenka’s short-handed rush.
The Czechs wasted little time in hitting back, with Michal Moravcik whipping in a shot from the deep slot to make it a one-goal game but the inevitable penalty soon followed. Niederreiter duly delivered his second power play goal of the night when Moser went around the back and opened up the Czech defence for the Minnesota Wild man to make it 4-2.
At that stage Switzerland seemed set to continue its unbeaten start to the tournament. Defenceman Dean Kukan shrugged off the disappointment of defeat with the fact that his team looks competitive here in Denmark.
"I think we showed in the last few games that we can compete with the stronger teams," he said. "I think we're ready to push for the quarterfinals."
Again, that two-goal lead was short-lived: it took just 22 seconds for Dmitrij Jaskin to make it 3-4 when he poked home the rebound after another Moravcik piledriver hit the post. The teams had traded five goals in seven minutes from the start of the period and there was more to come.
A brief lull ended with the Czechs tying the game when Michal Repik converted Kubalik’s set-up at the second attempt before tempers frayed once again. Mirco Muller clattered Necas into the boards, aggravating Czech tempers. Jaskin took matters into his own hands with a cross-check on Vermin; Raphael Diaz and Filip Hronek also ended up in the box as the incident spilled into several forceful exchanges of opinion. Seconds later, Switzerland’s Moser squeezed into the box alongside two team-mates after catching a Czech player with a high stick. As Swiss cowbells blended with the drums and trumpets of the Czechs, the period ended in a frenzied atmosphere.
Jaskin was also full of praise for the Swiss and, like his head coach, was worried about his team's penalty count. "I don't know why we're getting so many," he said. "If I knew, I'd be able to do something about it. Today I think the Swiss skated really well and we couldn't keep up with them. I think a lot of our penalties were trying to recover from individual errors."
The third period began with both teams showing a touch more caution but the pace steadily picked up after Necas forced Genoni into a good save midway through. A double minor against Faksa gave the Swiss a great chance to grab a winner, but Niederreiter was denied a hat-trick of power play goals when Francouz stopped him after a dance through the Czech defence.
Then came an even better chance: a penalty shot for Vermin. But Francouz had impressed earlier this year in his Olympic shootouts and made the save here as Vermin moved the to stick side and looked for the top shelf. Then overtime came and went with the Swiss killing a penalty as Jaskin and Roman Cervenka both went close for the Czechs.