Parise boosts U.S. into hockey semis 2010 Winter Olympics results
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• Photo gallery: Winter Olympics Tuesday Feb. 24
By IRA PODELL
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The longer it went, the tighter the Americans got.
They clanged shots off the post, then the crossbar. A wrist shot early in the game by Phil Kessel that looked like a bad omen hit both. Everything else the U.S. hockey team threw on net yesterday, Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller smothered.
But Zach Parise put all that frustration aside, deflecting a wrist shot from Brian Rafalski early in the third period. He then scored into an empty net to seal a 2-0 quarterfinal win that sends the U.S. to tomorrow's semifinals against Finland, which beat the Czech Republic, 2-0.
"The goalie was great and we did a good job of sticking with it. We were pretty confident and said just keep putting pucks at him," said Parise, who failed to score on his first 13 shots of the tournament.
Ryan Miller made 19 saves to backstop the victory and move the Americans within two wins of their first men's hockey gold medal in 30 years.
For a while, though, there was a chance their stirring 5-3 win over Canada on Sunday might go for naught. U.S. general manager Brian Burke said he wasn't happy with his team's play through the preliminary round, and cautioned that the Americans had to improve quickly if they hoped to make a run.
Their challenge came from the lightly regarded Swiss and not from tournament favorites Canada, Russia or defending Olympic champion Sweden.
"I thought after the first two or three games I could play better. I knew I would," said Parise, who had no goals and three assists in the opening three games. "It's always nice to get rewarded. I just kept wanting to keep shooting."
In front of a full crowd that traded chants for each team, Hiller gave the Swiss a chance to pull off the upset by making 42 saves. He had stymied Parise several times earlier, but couldn't keep the New Jersey Devils star down all the way.
Parise, the top-line forward who struck posts with two other shots, got a stick on Rafalski's shot and bounced it off the mask and arm of Hiller before the puck sneaked past his pad and inside the left post 2:08 into the third. The goal came 12 seconds into a power play.
He then sealed the win by scoring into an empty net with 11.2 seconds left. The U.S. has earned two of its four wins in these games against Switzerland, including a tournament-opening 3-1 victory last Tuesday.
Switzerland seemed to tire as the game wore on. The upstarts, who forced Canada to a shootout in the prelims, reached the quarters with another tiebreaker win over Belarus on Tuesday. Switzerland was forced to play past regulation in its previous three games.
Despite only two regular NHL players, the Swiss were gallant in longtime coach Ralph Krueger's last Olympics. Switzerland finished sixth in the Turin Games and was looking for its best showing in Canada.
"We had high expectations," the teary-eyed Hiller said, his voice cracking. "We knew we had a solid team and we can upset some of the big ones and that's what we tried to do. I wish we could have upset them a little more."
Until Parise scored, the signature moment in this one was a near goal the U.S. thought it scored to break the deadlock with less than one second left in the middle period.
Ryan Kesler's shot struck Hiller's blocker and popped in the air. The Anaheim Ducks goalie swatted it with his stick and deflected it off his shoulder before it fell behind him.
The puck tantalizingly slid onto the goal line and toward the net as the clock struck 0.0. A video replay confirming no goal sent the pro-Swiss crowd into jubilation as the teams headed to the dressing rooms.
CANADA IN SEMIS
Canada didn't need a complex game plan to wear down its biggest nemesis or punish Alex Ovechkin. Canada simply needed to be Canada.
The Canadians ended 50 years of Olympic hockey frustration against the Russians, surging into the Olympic semifinals with a 7-3 romp over the world champions yesterday.
Canada plays Slovakia, a 4-3 quarterfinal winner over Sweden.