Erik Karlsson leads Sweden over Czechs in men's hockey
Swedes capitalize on shaky Czech goaltending
The Swedish men’s hockey team capitalized on a quick start and some shaky opposing goaltending to skate to a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic in their opening game of the Olympic tournament at the Bolshoy Ice Dome on Wednesday.
Ottawa Senators star defenceman Erik Karlsson scored two goals while his defensive partner Oliver Ekman-Larsson added two assists.
Henrik Zetterberg and Patrik Berglund had the other two goals for the Swedes, who jumped to an early 3-0 lead thanks to some suspect goaltending by Czech starter Jakub Kovar.
Head coach Alois Hadamczik made the surprising decision to not even dress the team’s only NHL goaltender for the team’s stiffest test of the preliminary round. Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec was scratched in favour of KHL goalies Alexander Salak and Jakub Kovar.
Kovar got the start, which backfired horribly when he let in three questionable goals before being pulled early in the second and replaced by Salak, who let in the Swede’s fourth goal before the Czechs got on the board.
Salak settled down after that and kept the Czech Republic in the game, and Marek Zidlicky and Jaromir Jagr scored two quick goals midway through the second period to spark the Czechs.
But the Czech Republic couldn’t put any more past Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who kept the lead intact while the Czechs outshot the Swedes 15-5 in the third.
Lundqvist made 23 saves for the win, while Kovar and Salak combined for 25 stops in the loss.
Sweden's next game in Group C is against Switzerland, while the Czech Republic faces Latvia, both on Friday.
Quick start from Swedes
Sweden carried the play for most of the first period, capitalizing on a couple miscues by Kovar to go ahead 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Karlsson scored the opening goal of the Olympic tournament from the point on a delayed penalty halfway through the period, as Kovar struggled to deal with the traffic in front of his net and saw the Swede’s shot go through his glove.
Berglund made Kovar’s opening 20 minutes worse by scoring Sweden’s second goal from a bad angle at 13:17, firing a shot right through the Czech goaltender from outside the left faceoff dot.
It didn’t get any better for Kovar in the second. Zetterberg scored on another shot that went through the Czech goalie only 51 seconds in.
That goal ended Kovar’s night after Salak came in to replace him. But the switch didn’t matter. Karlsson scored his second of the game with a laser from the point with little over three minutes after Salak made his debut.
The Czechs clawed their way back into the contest with goals from Zidlicky and Jagr two minutes apart midway through the second, and pushed the Swedes hard for the remainder of the period.