All of Canada had to be thinking the same thing: "This can't be happening again."
Four years ago to the day, the Canadian men's hockey team, a medal favorite as usual, lost 2-0 to underdog Switzerland in group play en route to a disappointing seventh-place finish in the 2006 Turin Games.
Thursday night in Vancouver, the Swiss almost shocked the Canadians again, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to force the game first to overtime and then to a shootout before ultimately falling 3-2.
Neither team scored in the shootout’s three regulation rounds, but Sidney Crosby put the host nation up 1-0 to start the fourth round when he beat Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller (44 saves) with a stick-side snap shot.
Needing to score to keep the game going, Martin Pluss tried to lift a quick shot over Martin Brodeur's (21 saves) glove. But the veteran netminder, as he so often is, was in perfect position, knocking the puck to the ice and allowing hockey fans across Canada to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Canada led 1-0 entering the first intermission on Dany Heatley's third goal in two games. All appeared to be going as planned when fellow San Jose Shark Patrick Marleau made it 2-0 just 35 seconds into the second when he banged home a rebound.
But Switzerland broke through 8 1/2 minutes later when Ivo Ruthemann cut the lead in half with a shot from the left side that clanged off the post and in. Then, with just 10 seconds remaining in the second frame, Patrick Von Gunten tied it up when his shot deflected off Marleau's skate and past Brodeur as an air of disbelief settled over Canada Hockey Place.
That woke the sleeping giant, though, as the Canadians came out firing on all cylinders in the third. They outshot the Swiss 18-3 in the final 20 minutes, but Hiller stood tall, staying square to shots and making several beautiful glove saves.
Canada's best chance to win it in regulation came on a power play with less than three minutes to go. But the Swiss penalty killers forced the puck to the outside and did a good job getting in shooting lanes while Hiller stopped anything that did get through. The high-powered Canadian power play went just 1-for-7 on the night.
Switzerland outshot Canada 3-1 in overtime, but neither side had any great chances. Hiller and Brodeur exchanged saves in the shootout before Crosby, who is a near-automatic 6-for-7 in NHL shootouts this season, solved Hiller on his second attempt — international rules allow a team to repeat shooters after three rounds.
Canada will close out group play Sunday against the United States (7:40 p.m. ET). The U.S. (2-0-0-0) leads Group A with six points and Canada (1-1-0-0) is second with five — regulation wins are worth three points while overtime and shootout wins are only worth two.
The winner of Sunday's showdown will automatically earn a spot in the quarterfinals. The loser could also still earn a bye if it has the best record of any of the three second-place teams. If not, it would have to win an elimination game to reach the quarterfinals.