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Olympic playoff preview: Switzerland, Latvia engage in Group C rematch

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The game: No. 6 Switzerland vs. No. 11 Latvia. Tuesday, 12 p.m. ET at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

How they got here: The Swiss used stifling defense and the goaltending of Jonas Hiller to suffocate Group C opponents, allowing just one goal in three games. Every Switzerland contest finished 1-0 (wins over Latvia and the Czechs, loss to Sweden.)

Latvia was one of two teams to go pointless in the preliminary stage — No. 12 Norway was the other — but the Latvians competed hard and were competitive in all three losses.

Who’s hot: Hiller was outstanding in shutout victories over Latvia and the Czechs, stopping a combined 47 shots. He’s given his team the confidence it can win games by scoring just once — as explained by Simon Bondenmann, who netted the lone goal against the Czech Republic.

“Jonas is giving us a chance to win every game,” Bondenmann said, per IIHF.com. “We’d be happy to score a couple more goals, but if we win like this, it doesn’t matter.”

Latvian goalie Edgars Masalskis has been equally good this tournament. The 33-year-old starred against Switzerland in the opener, making 38 saves before Simon Moser scored a fluke deflection goal with eight seconds left. Masalskis followed that up with a stellar 35-save effort against the Czechs, keeping the Latvians in it despite being outplayed (and out-shot, 39-20).

Tampa Bay farmhand Kristers Gudlevskis played the final group game against Sweden, but it’s likely head coach Ted Nolan goes back to Masalskis on Tuesday.

Who’s not: Switzerland’s two best NHL forwards, Nino Niederreiter and Damien Brunner, were being counted on to provide offense. Hasn’t happened. Neither has registered a point, though Niederreiter does have a team-high 10 shots on goal.

Ex-Sens forward Kaspars Daugavins has nearly 100 NHL games on his resume and is one of the leading scorers in the Swiss league this year, yet only has one point (an assist) for Latvia despite averaging over 18 minutes a night.

X-Factor: Switzerland’s razor-thin margin of error. The Swiss are the better team, have more talent and enter the favorites… but were also eight seconds away from going to OT with Latvia in the preliminary round. They just don’t have the offense to put opponents away and that could be an issue because, in single elimination games, an underdog becomes more dangerous the longer it sticks around.

‘It’s embarrassing,’ says Gulutzan after lopsided loss to Oilers

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 21:  Head coach Glen Gulutzan of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on November 21, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Battle of Alberta was a tad lopsided Saturday.

The Edmonton Oilers scored early. They scored often. And despite holding a distinct advantage in shots on goal and puck possession, the rival Calgary Flames couldn’t get much going until the third period and by then the damage had been done.

The Oilers, tied in points with the San Jose Sharks, are one point back of the Anaheim Ducks for the Pacific Division lead after their 7-3 win over the Flames. Laurent Brossoit also collected his first career NHL victory.

This game wasn’t even six minutes old when Jordan Eberle scored to give Edmonton a three-goal lead. Chad Johnson was promptly pulled from the Calgary net, making one save on four shots faced.

The Flames were bad from the start. They didn’t get any better in the second period, falling behind five goals after 40 minutes and watching as the likes of Eberle and Connor McDavid piled on for a regular-season series sweep of Calgary.

Flames coach Glen Gulutzan had some strong words to describe the play of his team, which still holds down a wild card spot in the West.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said, per the Calgary Sun. “Our resolve to stick to it wasn’t there.”

“That’s a bunch of games in a row now where we’ve fallen behind and haven’t been able to get any push-back. And in our rink, it’s unacceptable,” added Mark Giordano.

The coach was utterly perplexed by his team’s breakdown on Edmonton’s third goal, which started off as a rush in the neutral zone and finished with Eberle, wide open down the right wing with a clear path to the net, beating Johnson on the shot.

“I don’t know what we were doing,” said Gulutzan. “I actually have no explanation for what our ‘D’ were doing on the third goal. It was a complete mistake.”

That should be concerning for the Flames.

They hold a playoff spot, but just barely with the Vancouver Canucks one point back and with two games in hand.

Talk about a Wild comeback for Minnesota

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The Minnesota Wild took back sole possession of the lead in the Central Division, thanks to a thrilling comeback win over the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

Minnesota trailed 3-1 early in the second period. Jason Zucker closed the deficit in the middle period, before they took the lead for good thanks to a frenzy of three goals from Erik Haula, Ryan Suter and Zucker in 1:59 late in regulation for a 5-3 victory.

“When we came in in between the second and third, knowing we were only down a goal, and knowing our history, we didn’t think we were out of it,” said coach Bruce Boudreau, per the Pioneer Press.

And so the Wild remain one of the hottest teams in the league, leading Chicago by two points.

While it’s a comeback for them, the Ducks don’t quite see it the same way.

“It’s not what they did, to be honest. We self-imploded. Gave up too many opportunities, left our goalie out to dry,” said Cam Fowler.

Additional bad news for the Ducks, however, was that goalie John Gibson left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury, and didn’t return.

 

Bust a move: Capitals win includes unlikely OT hero and dad’s dancing in Dallas

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The usual suspects contributed for the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Down a pair of goals entering the third period, Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie helped ignite the comeback on the power play.

But then an unlikely hero emerged.

Jay Beagle scored his 10th goal of the season and the overtime winner to give Washington a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. That aforementioned goal total matches his previous career high from two seasons ago.

He initially accomplished the feat over the course of 62 games. This time, he hits 10 goals in 46 games played.

Officials needed to review the play, although replays quickly showed the puck over the line from the Beagle shot in the slot.

The comeback win led to a memorable post-game celebration.

Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home.

The Capitals maintain their lead in the Metropolitan Division ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

This game versus the Stars included some feisty moments, particularly in the first period when tempers boiled over. Tom Wilson and Brett Ritchie dropped the gloves for a lengthy fight. Three seconds later, Daniel Winnik fought Antoine Roussel.

Ducks goalie Gibson leaves game versus Wild with upper-body injury

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Goaltender John Gibson #36 of the Anaheim Ducks in action during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Anaheim goaltender John Gibson has left Saturday’s game against Minnesota with an upper-body injury.

A short-angle shot from Mikko Koivu appeared to hit Gibson in the upper chest with 5:39 to play in the first period. The goaltender immediately went down on one knee and was quickly attended to by a trainer. Gibson gingerly skated to the bench and went straight to the locker room.

Anaheim announced that Gibson is doubtful to return.

Gibson is 7-1-1 with two shutouts in his past nine starts. He was replaced by Jonathan Bernier.

Gibson stopped four of five shots he faced while making his fourth straight start.