Sweden goalie Robin Lehner knew there would be pressure replacing Jacob Markstrom in goal at the 2011 World Junior Championship. The Ottawa Senators prospect showed Tuesday he was up to the challenge.
Lehner stopped all 30 shots he faced, backstopping Sweden to a 2-0 victory against Russia in preliminary-round action in Group B of the 2011 World Junior Championship, in a game played at Dwyer Arena on the campus of Niagara University.
Anton Lander and Jesper Fasth scored 3:22 apart in the first period as Sweden improved to 2-0 and kept pace with Canada atop Group B standings.
Lehner, a 2009 second-round pick, played 33 minutes in two NHL games this season during a three-week call-up in October spent mostly backing up Brian Elliott. Lehner has spent most of the season with AHL Binghamton, where he's gone 3-5-1 in 10 games, with a 2.69 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.
However, this was his first WJC game. Markstrom started for Sweden at the last two tournaments, winning silver in 2009 -- along with the tournament's Best Goaltender award -- and a bronze medal in 2010. Lehner was the backup Sunday in Sweden's opener against Norway.
"He has the potential to become a world-class goaltender," coach Roger Ronnberg told reporters after the game. "Robin not only makes the saves, but he basically runs our defense the way he communicates with the skaters."
Sweden's coaches counted 28 scoring chances for Russia, and the best might have come with about 11 minutes. Lehner was guarding the right post when the puck went to Nikita Dvurechensky in front, but the Russia forward fanned on the shot.
"I was of course relieved when I saw that the puck went wide, but luck only comes when you're playing well," said Lehner. "I am very satisfied with my game, but all our skaters backchecked really well. When the team plays well in front of you, it makes everything so much easier."
Sweden played this game without top 2011 Entry Draft prospect Gabriel Landeskog, who reportedly has an ankle injury that could sideline him for the remainder of the tournament. It's a big loss -- NHL Central Scouting ranked the Kitchener Rangers captain the top Draft prospect among Ontario Hockey League skaters in its preliminary rankings, and he was expected to be a major part of Sweden's quest for its first WJC gold medal in 30 years.
Lander, an Edmonton Oilers prospect serving as team captain for the second straight WJC, opened the scoring at 10:49 of the first period. He dug the puck out of the corner, carried it to the net and sent a backhand high over Russia goalie Dmitri Shikin.
Minutes later, Calle Jarnkrok jumped on a neutral-zone turnover and fed the puck to Fasth, a New York Rangers 2010 Draft pick, who one-timed it past Shikin at 14:11.
The loss leaves Russia and 0-2 and facing two must-win games to avoid relegation -- Thursday against Norway and Friday against the Czech Republic.
Sweden next plays Thursday against the Czech Republic.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com