The game was a record-tying one for Switzerland’s Andres Ambuhl, who was playing in his 119th career World Championship game, tying the all-time mark set by Germany’s Udo Kiessling, who played his last World Championship in 1991.
The win was preserved by Switzerland's penalty killers who played most of the final 6:27 down by one skater and nearly four minutes of it down by two. But they blocked shots and got great goaltending from Leonardo Genoni, and got the W despite the late-game drama.
Shots favoured the Swiss 30-16, but they also incurred 43 of the 53 penalty minutes handed out by the two referees. Those penalty minutes translated more importantly to an incredible 16:44 of power-play time for the Slovaks compared to just 5:26 for the Swiss. Yet the Swiss scored the only power-play goal of the game and also scored short-handed.
"With the offensive zone penalties, you gotta be smart about it, especially just kind of reaching and stuff," said Pius Suter, who had three assists for the victors. "It's gonna get called, you know, sticks between the legs, always tough ones. They're penalties that kind of happen sometimes, especially the ones in the 'O' zone, when they already have called them the other way. But it is how it is, and I think we did a good job after killing the penalties off."
"We didn't perform well," offered Slovak defender Peter Ceresnak. "We thought we would be better today. But we still managed to stay in the game. However, we didn't manage to score goals on the power play. So that was the key."
Moments later, Calvin Thurkauf had a breakaway and fired high, narrowly missing a second shorty on the same penalty.
Malgin and Thurkauf were buzzing all period and almost connected a bit later for a pretty goal, but Thurkauf couldn’t quite get the shot he wanted and it remained a 1-0 game.
The Swiss overwhelmed their opponents in the opening 20 minutes, outshooting Slovakia 17-6, but the one mistake they made proved costly. The defence was caught flat footed as Lantosi took a pass through the middle, and he burst into the Swiss end alone. Genoni made the save, but he lost sight of the puck as he spun in his crease, and Milos Roman knocked the puck in from the blue ice at 10:33.
Michael Fora and Christian Marti later had great chances but failed to connect, leaving it a 1-1 game after 20 minutes.
The Swiss went ahead again at 3:56 on another shot-tip combination. In this case, Dominik Egli took the shot and Christian Marti got his stick on the puck in front. A short time later a scary collision occurred at the Swiss blue line. Samuel Takac couldn’t quite reach a lass along the boards, and he collided heavily with linesman Hannu Sormanen, who couldn’t get out of the way. Both men crashed heavily to the ice, and while Takac finally got up and returned to play, Sormanen had to leave. He was replaced soon after by standby official Josef Spur.
Juraj Slafkovsky tied the game for the Slovaks at 5:32. He came out of the corner and fired a hard shot past Genoni’s glove. The score was a welcome relief for the 18-year-old, who led the Olympics in goals with seven but had yet to dent the twine in Helsinki.
And at 12:59, the Swiss took their third lead of the game on a most fortuitous play. A deflected pass at the Swiss blue line saw the puck roll back to the Slovak end just as Timo Meier came out of the penalty box. He picked up the loose puck with a clear breakaway, and beat Huska with the shot.
"I just got really lucky," Meier said. "Sometimes you hit posts and goalies make great saves, and sometimes you get lucky to be at the right time in the right place and that's pretty much it."
In addition to goals and spills, the second featured a veritable plague of penalties. In all, eight minors were called, including too many skaters both ways.
Captain Nico Hischier doubled the Swiss lead early in the third. He took a sweet breakaway pass from Marti, and beat Huska with a shot between the pads at 5:44. This came just after Tomas Tatar wired a shot off the post on another power play for too many skaters.
We weren't done just yet, though. The Slovaks got a lucky one at 9:07 when Takac threw the puck to the front of the net with a hope and a prayer. His wishes were granted, as the puck bounced off the skate of defender Tobias Geisser and in, making it a one-goal game again.
But with 6:27 remaining, Michael Fora took a major penalty for kneeing, and soon after Siegenthaler took a minor, leaving the Swiss down two men for the full two minutes. They killed that off masterfully, but then the Slovaks pulled Huska to create another five-on-three. Late in that situation, however, coach Craig Ramsay took too long changing players and was assessed a bench minor, dashing the team's hopes for a ocmeback.
Herzog closed out the scoring with an empty netter with 23.4 seconds remaining.
"It wasn't a perfect game," Meier conceded. "We took a lot of stupid penalties. But we found a way to win again, which is huge. Great job by our PK to kill off all those penalties. We've got to learn from that. We've got to smarten up and we can't do that again. Taking that many penalties, when you play Team Canada, they're gonna take advantage of that. It's gonna get really tough."
Indeed, the Swiss have an off day tomorrow befoe facing Canada on Friday. Slovakia will play Kazakhstan that same day.