Hiller, Switzerland Eliminated in 3-1 Loss to Latvia

Tuesday, 02.18.2014 / 2:51 PM / News
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Hiller, Switzerland Eliminated in 3-1 Loss to Latvia
SOCHI -- This time the margin was just too fine for Switzerland. The Swiss had played 180 minutes of one-goal hockey just to make the knockout stage of the 2014 Sochi Olympics men\'s hockey tournament, but its luck ran out in the qualification playoffs as they dropped a 3-1 decision to Latvia on Tuesday at Bolshoy Ice Dome.
By Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com

SOCHI -- This time the margin was just too fine for Switzerland.

The Swiss had played 180 minutes of one-goal hockey just to make the knockout stage of the 2014 Sochi Olympics men's hockey tournament, but its luck ran out in the qualification playoffs as they dropped a 3-1 decision to Latvia on Tuesday at Bolshoy Ice Dome.

The game was a 2-1 nailbiter until Lauris Darzins scored his second goal of the game, an empty-netter with 59.9 seconds remaining.

Latvia, which lost 1-0 to Switzerland in the opening game of the tournament on Wednesday, gained a fair bit of revenge and advances to a quarterfinal matchup Wednesday at Bolshoy (Noon ET, MSNBC, CBC) with Canada, which received a bye into the quarterfinals by virtue of winning its group with two regulation wins and a shootout victory against Finland.

Canada last played Latvia in the Olympics in Germany on Feb. 7, 1936, winning 11-0.

Latvia, in its fifth Olympics, never had finished better than ninth, which happened in 2002. It is the first time they have reached the quarterfinals, becoming the second club Tuesday to make such history. In the day's first quarterfinal, Slovenia defeated Austria 4-0 to qualify for the quarterfinals for the first time as well.

Latvia's victory was keyed by goalie Edgars Masalskis, who made 32 saves. Masalskis made 38 saves in the first meeting between the teams.

Masalskis, 34, currently calls the Slovak Extraliga home but has played throughout Europe. This is the third Olympics in which he has represented Latvia. He also has played for his country in eight World Championship competitions.

Switzerland only allowed one goal in preliminary-round play, losing 1-0 to Sweden in a game in which Reto Berra played goal. In the other two games, including the opening game against Latvia on Feb. 12, Jonas Hiller was in goal. He did not allow a goal in either game, stopping all 47 shots he faced.

But the Latvians, coached by Ted Nolan, interim coach of the Buffalo Sabres, refused to be intimidated by the mystique of Hiller, a star in the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks. Hiller was good on this night (19 saves), just not good enough.

Latvia defenseman Oskars Bartulis opened the scoring at 8:38 when his shot from the left point beat Hiller to the far corner. Hiller was screened on the play by two skaters and the puck may have hit off the pants of Switzerland's Mathias Seger and changed direction slightly.

That goal, on Latvia's second shot, ended Hiller's consecutive-save run at 48. It also put an end to the dominance of play the Swiss had showed for the game's first eight minutes. At the time of the goal the Swiss held a 7-2 shot advantage.

Latvia struck again 2:41 later, this time on the power play. With Morris Trachsler in the penalty box for tripping, the Latvians were able to set up in the offensive zone and move the puck around the perimeter. Mikelis Redlihs made a perfect cross-slot pass to Darzins, who banked his wrist shot off Hiller's shoulder and into the short side of the net.

Suddenly the Swiss needed to open up a little bit after relying on defense for so much of this tournament. After scoring two goals in its three preliminary-round games, the Swiss would need at least two in the final 48:41 to have any hope of winning this game.

For a long time it looked like Masalskis was going to be unbeatable, just as he was for the first 59:53 of his first showdown with Swiss.

Masalskis made several highlight-reel saves but none better than a lightning-fast glove-hand save of a one-timer from Andres Ambuhl ticketed for the top corner. Somehow Masalskis got his glove in the path of the puck before falling forward. He remained face-down on the ice for several seconds in a combination of exhaustion and satisfaction.

But at 15:01 of the second period alternate captain Martin Pluss powered a one-timer through the Latvian goalie to give the Swiss hope.

A chance late in the period by Seger was turned aside by a clutch blocker save.

Much of third period was played in the Latvian end, but the desperate Swiss attack could not muster the tying tally, doomed by an offense that found it hard to get in gear at any point in this tournament.

With less than three minutes remaining Swiss forward Reto Suri got loose for a rush down the left side, but Masalskis turned aside the quality chance, leaving Suri looking skyward in disbelief.

Moments later Darzins' empty-net goal wrapped it up for Latvia.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 77 31 56 28 87
C. Perry 81 43 39 32 82
N. Bonino 77 22 27 14 49
M. Perreault 69 18 25 13 43
A. Cogliano 82 21 21 13 42
C. Fowler 70 6 30 15 36
K. Palmieri 71 14 17 9 31
D. Winnik 76 6 24 6 30
H. Lindholm 78 6 24 29 30
S. Koivu 65 11 18 3 29
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 20 5 0 .923 2.29
J. Hiller 29 13 7 .911 2.48

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