U.S. tops Switzerland in hockey, 3-1
The American men's hockey team opened the Olympics with about as strong a performance as could be expected, a 3-1 victory over Switzerland that featured a splendid performance from goaltender Ryan Miller -- the U.S.'s best hope to lead a medal run -- and an inspired performance from David Backes.
Miller, an NHL all-star with the Buffalo Sabres, foiled 14 of the 15 shots he faced from Switzerland, and his second-period, point-blank save on Switzerland's Martin Pluss began the game's signature play -- an end-to-end rush from Backes of the St. Louis Blues, who shot down the left wing and stuffed the puck by Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller that put the Americans up 2-0.
Backes was also involved in the game's first goal when he dug a puck out from behind the Swiss net and kept an American possession alive. Bobby Ryan eventually scored after that play, and the U.S. -- buoyed by chants of "USA! USA!" at a packed Canada Hockey Place was never seriously threatened. Ryan Malone scored on the power play eight minutes, 35 seconds into the second period to complete the scoring for the U.S.
Switzerland finally broke through on the power play midway through the third period, when Roman Wick's shot from the right wing slipped between Miller's pads as Hnat Domenichelli crashed the net, but that merely cut the Americans' lead to 3-1.
The start was far better for the U.S. than the last Olympics, when the Americans opened the Turin Games with a 3-3 tie with Latvia that kicked off an uninspiring tournament in which they finished in eighth place.
This group, buoyed by younger stars such as Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, doesn't have as much talent as the favored Canadians or Russians, but they do have Miller, who is second in the NHL in both save percentage and goals against average.
Canada faces Norway at 7:30 p.m. EST, and Russia -- with, of course, both Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals -- plays Latvia at midnight.
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