When the heat finally got turned up at the IIHF World Hockey Championship, it was two of Canada's coolest customers that stepped to the fore.
Alex Pietrangelo kept Canada from suffering another loss to Switzerland by scoring 4:14 into overtime Tuesday while goaltender James Reimer shook off a bad early goal to stand tall during the 4-3 victory.
It was exactly the type of contributions the young team needed, particularly when it started trading chances - and goals - in the third period. Pietrangelo's overtime winner came after a blocked pass attempt ended up back on his stick and he beat Leonardo Genoni with a high shot.
"He has the same puck patience characteristics as Nick Lidstrom," said Canadian coach Ken Hitchcock. "He's calm when he should panic, he sees a second option where most people just see 'get it out,' he has that quality about him that's very, very unique where he does not panic when he's under challenging situations."
Reimer has shown similar mettle while earning the confidence of teammates and seizing the No. 1 job in net.
After having a bad angle shot from Rafael Diaz glance off his glove and in to give the Swiss a 1-0 lead, Reimer rebounded with a strong performance. He denied Matthias Bieber on two third-period breakaways - the first on a penalty shot and the second with the game tied 2-2.
Once the victory was sealed, he apologized to Hitchcock for the one soft shot that got behind him.
"It's one of those goals where it was no one's fault except yours," said Reimer, who finished with 30 saves.
The Swiss came exactly as billed. Comprised entirely of players from the domestic league other than Anaheim Ducks defenceman Luca Sbisa, they played fast and physical while getting a solid performance in goal from Genoni.
They've become a Canadian nemesis in recent years and were on the verge of yet another upset here with some resilient play. After Chris Stewart made it 3-2 for Canada at 16:46 of the third period, Andres Ambuhl brought Steel Arena alive by tying it less than two minutes later.
Hitchcock's first thought when that happened?
"We've seen this movie before," he said.
Swiss coach Sean Simpson was gracious in defeat, saying Canada "deserved to win" because his team was "in and out" of the game. He was particularly unhappy with a second period where Canada outshot the Swiss 24-7 and scored twice to erase the early deficit.
"Canada's a tough team, they've got all the elements they need," said Simpson. "It's going to be a tough job for anybody to play against that team the rest of the tournament."
Jordan Eberle and John Tavares also scored for Canada (3-0) while Felicien Du Bois had the other goal for Switzerland (2-1).
The victory came with a reward. It ensured that Wednesday would be a complete day off for the Canadians, who will instead welcome many family and friends to Slovakia before practising Thursday and playing their next game on Friday.
The opponent won't be known until the preliminary round wraps up Wednesday night.
There are still some important elements of the game for the team to work on as the tournament continues. It allowed the Swiss too many quality scoring chances late in the game and twice blew one-goal leads in the final 20 minutes.
"We got nervous in the third (period) and started giving back the puck a little bit when the Swiss turned up the forechecking pressure," said Hitchcock.
Fortunately, there were enough calm performers to keep the game from slipping away.
In addition to Pietrangelo and Reimer, Dion Phaneuf had a standout game on the blue-line and logged a team-high 24 minutes 59 seconds. He hammered Switzerland's Simon Moser with an open-ice hit that saw the Swiss player briefly lose consciousness on the bench after swallowing his tongue.
Moser returned in the third period.
"I admire that kid, I couldn't believe that kid got up and played again," said Hitchcock.
The Canadian team got unravelled at this event a year ago after losing to Switzerland at this exact portion of the tournament. Armed with a victory this time around, they appear ready to be on a much better path.
"That's a good test for us I think," said Tavares. "As much as you want to be as dominant as you can in these games, we learned a lot about ourselves."
Notes: Pietrangelo took a team-high six shots ... With Carlo Colaiacovo playing his first game for Canada, eighth defenceman Mario Scalzo received just 3:50 of ice time ... Canada's Travis Zajac entered the game with the tournament's best faceoff winning percentage ... Andy Murray, who coached Canada to gold at the 2007 world championship, is an adviser for the Swiss team ... Canadian assistant GMs Bob Murray and Rob Blake took in their first game after arriving in Slovakia.
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