Winter Olympics Hockey Recap: Sweden, Switzerland Take Group C Lead

Loui ErikssonThe men’s hockey tournament at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi began Wednesday with two Group C games.

Sweden opened its gold medal quest with a 4-2 victory over the Czech Republic. Defenseman Erik Karlsson led the way with two goals, and his defense partner Oliver Ekman-Larsson added two assists. Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves for his eighth career Olympic victory.

The Czech Republic fell behind 3-0 when Henrik Zetterberg scored 51 seconds into the second period. That was the last shot Czech starting goaltender Jakub Kovar faced as he was replaced by Alexander Salak, who played pretty well with 14 saves on 15 shots. Czech defenseman Marek Zidlicky and veteran winger Jaromir Jagr each scored goals midway through the second period to trim Sweden’s lead to 4-2, but Lundqvist shut the door in the final 20 minutes.

Switzerland avoided an upset against a Latvia team looking for its first win over a team ranked eighth or higher in the IIHF standings since the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Top-six forward Simon Moser broke the scoreless deadlock on the Swiss’ 39th and final shot, scoring with eight seconds remaining to secure the 1-0 win. Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller made 21 saves in a spectacular shutout performance.

Defining Moments

Sweden vs. Czech Republic

The Swedes dominated the opening 20 minutes and deflated the Czechs’ confidence when third-line winger Patrik Berglund ripped a slap shot past Kovar to double Sweden’s lead with seven minutes left in the first period.

Four minutes into the second period, Karlsson increased Sweden’s advantage to 4-0 with a shot from the point that found its way past Salak, with Boston Bruins star Loui Eriksson setting a screen at the top of the crease.

With 12 minutes left in the second period, Czech forward Roman Cervenka found himself all alone about 10 feet from the crease and fired a wrist shot toward Lundqvist, but the New York Rangers netminder got a piece of it with his glove. It was one of the few defensive mistakes by Sweden all game and a huge save from Lundqvist to preserve his team’s 4-0 lead.

At 10:01 of the second period, Jaromir Jagr cut the deficit in half with a one-handed shot that beat Lundqvist. Czech center Tomas Plekanec ran into Swedish defenseman Niklas Kronwall in the crease while Lundqvist was attempting to stop Jagr’s shot. Lundqvist told the referee that Plekanec pushing Kronwall into the crease prevented him from making a save, but after an official video review, the goal stood.

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During a third-period power play, Czech forward Ales Hemsky had a great scoring chance at the top of the crease, but instead of shooting at Lundqvist with the puck on his back hand, he passed to David Krejci, who couldn’t handle the bouncing puck as it went into the corner. Hemsky and the rest of the Czech team’s unwillingness to shoot was a major issue all game.

Switzlerland vs. Latvia

After 59 minutes of scoreless hockey, Swiss forward Simon Moser took the puck below the goal line and sent a pass out in front to Nino Niederreiter. Luckily for the Swiss, the pass caromed off Latvia defenseman Georgijs Pujacs and past goaltender Edgars Masalskis with 7.9 seconds left for the game’s only goal.

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Most Disappointing Players

Henrik Tallinder, Defenseman, Sweden

Tallinder’s selection to the team was a bit of a head scratcher because it took a spot away from more talented young defensemen such as Hampus Lindholm, Victor Hedman and Jonas Brodin. Tallinder played just 3:39 against the Czech Republic (including no ice time in the third period) and tallied two penalty minutes and zero shots on goal.

David Krejci, Center, Czech Republic

Krejci leads the Bruins in points and served as the top-line center for the Czechs on Wednesday, but he failed to make much of an impact at even strength or on the power play. He got 19:36 of ice time but didn’t register a single shot on goal. Ekman-Larsson did a great job of being physical with Krejci and taking away the time and space the Czech center had to create scoring chances.

Updated Group C Standings

Team GP W OTW OTL L GDF GF:GA PTS
Sweden 1 1 0 0 0 2 4 : 2 3
Switzerland 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 : 0 3
Latvia 1 0 0 0 1 -1 0 : 1 0
Czech Rep. 1 0 0 0 1 -2 2 : 4 0

What’s Next?

The next Group C preliminary round games will take place Friday. The Czech Republic will play Latvia at 3 a.m. ET in a game broadcast live on MSNBC. Sweden and Switzerland will battle for the group lead at 7:30 a.m. ET in a matchup shown live on NBC Sports Network.

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