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Czech Republic
Sweden

game recap

Fast start paces Sweden to opening win

Thursday, 02.13.2014 / 1:52 PM

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Fast start paces Sweden to opening win
Czech Republic 2, Sweden 4

SOCHI -- Sweden needed a little more 24 minutes to prove its status as gold-medal contenders in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The final 35-plus minutes of the game showed the Swedes how much work they still have to do if they want to reach the top of the medal stand Feb. 23.

The Swedes zipped the puck around and scored four goals in the first 24:07 of the game Wednesday, chasing Czech Republic starting goalie Jakub Kovar and giving themselves the cushion they needed for a 4-2 victory in front of a jam-packed and definitely pro-Czech crowd of 11,419 at Bolshoy Ice Dome on the first night of the tournament.

"I got some action early on but after that it was pretty quiet in my end and we played really well. The pucks started going in so we felt this was going to be a nice ride for us," Sweden goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "But things changed."

The Czechs made Sweden work for the win thanks to a strong third-period push following back-to-back goals from New Jersey Devils teammates Marek Zidlicky and Jaromir Jagr midway through the second.

They more than doubled their shot total in the third period with 15 and had three power plays within the first 8:28, but Sweden preserved the two-goal lead because its penalty killers were as strong as Lundqvist.

Lundqvist finished the night with 27 saves and defenseman Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson provided some of the offensive punch with a combined four points (two goals for Karlsson, two assists for Ekman-Larsson) to pace Sweden to a win that left them feeling strong, confident and yet still somewhat vulnerable.

Sweden's next game in Group C play is Friday against Switzerland (7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN). The Czechs play Latvia on Friday (3 a.m. ET, MSNBC, TSN).

"It's easy to say now because we won the game but I think it became a good test for us instead of running away, scoring four or five goals and just play it out," Sweden forward Daniel Alfredsson said. "We had to play all the way until the end and I think it showed that the last half of the second and early third we were under a lot of pressure and we have to be able to weather that a little bit better than we did [Wednesday]."

Czech coach Alois Hadamczik made the surprising and somewhat controversial decision to start Kovar, a two-time bronze medalist in the IIHF World Championship, ahead of the Winnipeg Jets' Ondrej Pavelec, the only NHL goalie on the roster. Pavelec didn't dress for the game as Hadamczik explained he was giving Pavelec some extra time to adjust his body clock after coming from 10 time zones away.

Kovar, though, gave up three goals on 10 shots and was pulled 51 seconds into the second period. Alexander Salak came in and gave up a goal on the first shot he faced before settling in to stop the final 14 shots he saw.

None of them mattered because the Czechs couldn't make up for what happened within the first 24:07, when Patrik Berglund and Henrik Zetterberg sandwiched goals around Karlsson's two to give Sweden a 4-0 lead.

"I went into the game and there was nothing to lose," Salak said. "I tried to battle hard and even if they scored on the first shot we still played aggressive, we played a good game. That was very important. I'm very proud of my teammates; they backed me up [Wednesday]."

If they had done the same thing for Kovar they might have had a chance to win the game. Instead Czech forward Patrik Elias said his team was far too passive in the first half of the game.

The Swedes were able to win faceoffs, control the puck and get to the front of the net for screens.

Kovar was beaten by Karlsson's slap shot through an Alfredsson screen during a delayed penalty 10:07 into the game. He couldn't stop Berglund’s short-side shot past his blocker off the rush 3:10 later. The kicker came 51 seconds into the second period when Zetterberg scored on a slap shot through an Alexander Steen screen.

"We were just sitting back too much," Elias said. "We were passive. We didn't go. We backed off. We talked about being patient without the puck but that's what we did for the whole period. We got in trouble with the penalties, they scored on it. That's simplified but that was the reason."

It wasn't until after Karlsson scored his second goal, on another slap shot through a screen on a power play, that the Czechs started moving their feet and pushing the pace.

Zidlicky ripped a high, hard shot from the right circle into the net at the 8:12 mark of the second period and Jagr scored with a one-handed shot past Lundqvist’s right pad just 1:49 later.

The Czechs didn't back off, but the Swedes didn't seem to mind either. They showed some warts but at least now they have some things to focus on in practice Thursday.

If they had won in a rout then the Swedes wouldn't feel as battle-tested as they do now and Lundqvist still would be waiting to feel the heat in what is expected to blossom into an intense, pressure-packed tournament for him and his countrymen.

"You don't want a game to go perfectly. You want a test," Lundqvist said. "I think it's good for the morale and good for the group here to re-group a little bit."

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GAME SUMMARY


SCORING
CZE 0 2 0 - 2
SWE 2 2 0 - 4

First Period
1. SWE, Karlsson (Ekman-Larsson, Steen) 10:07
2. SWE, Berglund (Ekman-Larsson, Lundqvist) 13:17
Penalties - Barinka CZE (interference) 11:00, Tallinder SWE (hooking) 14:20, Landeskog SWE (interference) 18:09, Zidlicky CZE (slashing) 18:09.

Second Period
3. SWE, Zetterberg (Landeskog, Kronwall) 0:51
4. SWE, Karlsson (Sedin, Backstrom) 4:07
5. CZE, Zidlicky (Elias) 8:12
6. CZE, Jagr (Plekanec, Kaberle) 10:01
Penalties - Zidlicky CZE (tripping) 2:16, Nedved CZE (tripping) 11:55, Ericsson SWE (holding) 20:00

Third Period
Penalties - Nedved CZE (slashing) 0:45, Kruger SWE (hooking) 3:50, Ekman-Larsson (boarding) 6:28

SHOTS ON GOAL
CZE   7   7  15 - 29
SWE  9  11   5 - 25

Goaltenders (goals-shots against) - CZE: Kovar (L, 3-10), Salak (1-15); SWE: Lundqvist (W, 2-29).

Power plays (goals-chances) - CZE: 0-4; SWE: 1-4

Czech Republic
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
10 R. Cervenka 5'11" 201 12/10/1985 Praha, CZE
26 P. Elias NJD 6'1" 195 4/13/1976 Trebic, CZE
91 M. Erat WSH 6'0" 196 8/29/1981 Trebic, CZE
67 M. Frolik WPG 6'1" 198 2/17/1988 Kladno, CZE
11 M. Hanzal PHX 6'6" 230 2/20/1987 Pisek, CZE
83 A. Hemsky EDM 6'0" 185 8/13/1983 Pardubice, CZE
68 J. Jagr NJD 6'3" 230 2/15/1972 Kladno, CZE
46 D. Krejci BOS 6'0" 188 4/28/1986 Sternberk, CZE
9 M. Michalek OTT 6'2" 216 12/7/1984 Jindrichuv Hradec, CZE
93 P. Nedved 6'3" 196 12/9/1971 Liberec, CZE
12 J. Novotny 6'3" 204 8/12/1983 Pelhrimov, CZE
18 O. Palat TBL 5'11" 174 3/28/1991 Frydek Mistek, CZE
14 T. Plekanec MTL 5'11" 196 10/31/1982 Kladno, CZE
89 J. Voracek PHI 6'2" 214 8/15/1989 Kladno, CZE
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
8 M. Barinka 6'3" 225 6/12/1984 Vyskov, CZE
3 R. Gudas TBL 6'0" 204 6/5/1990 Prague, CZE
7 T. Kaberle 6'1" 212 3/2/1978 Rakovnik, CZE
25 L. Krajicek 6'3" 205 3/11/1983 Prostejov, CZE
23 Z. Michalek PHX 6'2" 210 12/23/1982 Jindrichuv Hradec, CZE
32 M. Rozsival CHI 6'1" 212 9/3/1978 Vlasim, CZE
5 L. Smid CGY 6'3" 209 2/1/1986 Frydlant, CZE
2 M. Zidlicky NJD 5'11" 190 2/3/1977 Most, CZE
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
1 J. Kovar 6'0" 201 7/19/1988 Pisek, CZE
31 O. Pavelec WPG 6'3" 220 8/31/1987 Kladno, CZE
53 A. Salak 6'1" 190 1/5/1987 Strakonice, CZE
Sweden
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
11 D. Alfredsson DET 5'11" 203 12/11/1972 Gothenburg, SWE
19 N. Bäckström WSH 6'1" 208 11/23/1987 Gävle, SWE
14 P. Berglund STL 6'3" 217 6/2/1988 Västerås, SWE
42 J. Ericsson 6'2" 212 2/22/1980 Skellefteå, SWE
21 L. Eriksson BOS 6'2" 196 7/17/1985 Goteborg, SWE
62 C. Hagelin NYR 5'11" 186 8/23/1988 Sodertalje, SWE
90 M. Johansson WSH 6'1" 205 10/6/1990 Landskrona, SWE
16 M. Krüger CHI 6'0" 181 5/27/1990 Stockholm, SWE
92 G. Landeskog COL 6'1" 204 11/23/1992 Stockholm, SWE
41 G. Nyquist DET 5'11" 185 9/1/1989 Halmstad, SWE
22 D. Sedin VAN 6'1" 187 9/26/1980 Ornskoldsvik, SWE
18 J. Silfverberg ANA 6'1" 200 10/13/1990 Gävle, SWE
20 A. Steen STL 5'11" 212 3/1/1984 Winnipeg, MB
40 H. Zetterberg DET 5'11" 197 10/9/1980 Njurunda, SWE
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
23 A. Edler VAN 6'3" 215 4/21/1986 Ostersund, SWE
3 O. Ekman-Larsson PHX 6'2" 190 7/17/1991 Karlskrona, SWE
52 J. Ericsson DET 6'4" 221 3/2/1984 Karlskrona, SWE
4 N. Hjalmarsson CHI 6'3" 207 6/6/1987 Eksjo, SWE
65 E. Karlsson OTT 6'0" 180 5/31/1990 Landsbro, SWE
55 N. Kronwall DET 6'0" 190 1/12/1981 Stockholm, SWE
27 J. Oduya CHI 6'0" 190 10/1/1981 Stockholm, SWE
7 H. Tallinder BUF 6'4" 209 1/10/1979 Stockholm, SWE
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
1 J. Enroth BUF 5'10" 166 6/25/1988 Stockholm, SWE
50 J. Gustavsson DET 6'3" 192 10/24/1984 Danderyd, SWE
30 H. Lundqvist NYR 6'1" 188 3/2/1982 Are, SWE