The Tre Kronor can secure top spot in the group with victory over Russia on Tuesday evening but had to withstand a strong Swiss fightback before sealing a 5-3 victory here. Switzerland, meanwhile, is still sweating on its place in the quarter-finals. Two resilient displays against the most powerful teams in the group have done plenty for morale without putting any more points on the board. Patrick Fischer’s team is just one point ahead of fifth-placed Slovakia, but the Slovaks have two games to play. Tomorrow night, the Swiss are likely to be rooting for Russia: if the Red Machine rolls over the Slovaks, Switzerland holds its fate in its own hands against France on Tuesday.
Another Swedish PP, and another goal in the 10th minute. This time it was Patric Hornqvist, fresh off the plane from Pittsburgh, who found the net. Captain Mikael Backlund made the feed from the goal line and Hornqvist, whose Stanley Cup run with the Penguins ended last week, went top shelf.
Significantly, Sweden was getting goals without relying on its impressive first line. Klingberg, who potted the opener, was encouraged by the extra firepower.
"It’s huge," he said. "We need everyone to participate here. When you play a semi-final, final, quarter-finals, you know you have to get all lines to score.
"You can just see how much Arvidsson creates. Hornqvist, he’s scoring one goal and then he’s in front of the net on that fourth goal. He’s one of the best players in the world in front of the net."
The shot count told much of the story, with Sweden 15-4 up in the first period. Switzerland was unable to get its offence going and the Swedes enjoyed the opportunity to control much of the game.
Hornqvist wasn’t the only new arrival in the Swedish camp to get on the ice: Viktor Arvidsson was one of three Predators to join the Swedish team, but the only one to feature here. As the game wore on, his flashy stick handling was ever more eye-catching. Oliver Ekman-Larsson almost squeezed one through Genoni’s pads, Elias Pettersson deked the goalie out of position but, moving at high speed, could not force the puck through the gap he created. With the Swiss on the back foot it felt like further scoring was inevitable.
"I felt a little empty in the head and low on energy, but it’s fun to get started and get into the system and everything around here," Arvidsson said. "I think we played a great game for two periods. We were a little slow in the third, but we got it done, and that’s what matters."
Now he's looking forward to chasing glory with Sweden: "We have good defencemen, good goalies, and offensively, we can hurt teams. I feel like we’ve got to work hard, really do the work. Just because we have good guys on paper, we’ve still got to do the work and battle through the games. For sure we really have a great team and we can have a great tournament."
Further scoring was indeed inevitable, but the next goal came at the other end, though. Ramon Untersander handed Switzerland a lifeline when he fired an Enzo Corvi feed over Nilsson’s shoulder with 90 seconds left in the middle stanza. Encouraged, the Swiss put together their first spell of sustained pressure to go into the intermission on a high.
And the army of red-clad fans was higher still when Raphael Diaz made it a one-goal game early in the third. Kevin Fiala, another recently-arrived Predator, was the architect. His backhand pass from the left channel found Diaz at centre point with the Swedish zone opening up before him. As the Swiss captain advanced, Timo Meier’s contortions put traffic in front of Nilsson and Diaz shot from between the hash marks into Nilsson’s top corner.
"I like the way we responded at the end of the second period," said Gregory Hofmann. "In the third period we battled pretty hard. Obviously what I don’t like is that we took some bad penalties and the Swedes scored. We have to learn to keep our sticks away from the guys and play good positional hockey."
Now Swedish alarm bells were ringing. A penalty on Klingberg intensified the pressure; Nilsson made a big, flailing save to deny Hofmann. A routine outing was turning into a serious examination and Switzerland seemed to have recovered the energy it sorely lacked in the early stages.
Switzerland had been here 24 hours before, down 2-3 against Russia and pushing for a tying goal, only to be hit by a counter-punch. And history repeated itself when Adam Larsson smashed home a point shot to make it 4-2 with seven minutes left.
A power play chance for Switzerland saw Genoni called to the bench as Fischer looked to grab a goal in 6-on-4 play with five minutes to go. This time, the gamble back-fired. Sweden killed the penalty and, with Switzerland unable to get the goalie back on the ice, duly scored an empty-net goal through Magnus Paajarvi as Backlund grabbed a third assist to go with his goal.
That wasn't quite the end: Dean Kukan got a third goal for Switzerland in the last minute. It was, however, too late to save the game.