By GREG BEACHAM
2014-02-16 03:42 AM
SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Jonas Hiller made 26 saves in his second Olympic shutout, Simon Bodenmann scored in the first period, and Switzerland beat the Czech Republic 1-0 Saturday night in the teams' final preliminary-round game.
Hiller, the starting goalie for the NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks, still hasn't allowed a goal in Sochi, stopping all 47 shots he has faced over two games.
His brilliance and his teammates' defense allowed Switzerland to win two of its three games despite scoring just two goals in the entire preliminary round.
The Swiss barely survived an inspired third period by the Czechs, who finished the preliminary round 1-2 on Jaromir Jagr's 42nd birthday. Jagr couldn't beat Hiller after scoring a goal in each of the Czechs' first two games of his fifth Olympics.
Ondrej Pavelec stopped 25 shots for the Czechs, who should be a dangerous team in the upcoming elimination games despite their losses.
Jagr had another active game, and Pavelec was sharp in his second straight start.
The Swiss were a popular dark-horse pick heading into Sochi with their silver medals at last year's world championships and their balanced, cohesive roster backstopped by the dependable Hiller. But they managed just one goal in their first two games, beating Latvia 1-0 on a last-minute score before getting shut out 1-0 by Sweden with Reto Berra in net.
The Czechs and Swiss both lost to the Swedes.
The Swiss went ahead late in the first period when Kevin Romy controlled the puck behind Pavelec's net and got it to Denis Hollenstein, who found Bodenmann in the slot for a one-timer. All three players are from the strong Swiss domestic league, which is given credit by Hiller for the recent upswing in Swiss international performance.
The Czechs peppered Hiller with chances early, and Milan Michalek missed a goal by inches when his one-timer hit Hiller's left post.
Hiller was outstanding in the second period, and he got help from his crossbar when Tomas Plekanec hit it during a delayed penalty early in the third. Jagr carried the puck out from behind the net for a shot with 15 seconds left, but hit the perfectly positioned Hiller squarely in the chest.