STOCKHOLM -- D.J. Smith said he told his players before the game Saturday that the Ottawa Senators could defeat the Minnesota Wild 2-1.

That’s exactly what happened at Avicii Arena in the 2023 NHL Global Series Sweden presented by Fastenal, thanks to Josh Norris scoring in the shootout.

What the Senators coach didn’t predict, however, was that his team’s key offensive play in regulation would come from the unlikeliest of sources.

From 2009-13, Ottawa showcased one of the most lethal Swedish offensive combinations in forward Daniel Alfredsson and defenseman Erik Karlsson. Alfredsson is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Karlsson might very well end up there one day too.

On Saturday, the Senators unveiled another Swedish dynamic duo: goalie Anton Forsberg and defenseman Erik Brannstrom.

Both came into the game with zero goals this season. In Forsberg’s case, that’s not a surprise, considering the position he plays.

As for Brannstrom, he came in with four goals in 199 NHL games.

Yet, in the end, they pretty much salvaged the game for the Senators.

With Ottawa trailing 1-0 early in the third period after a Marco Rossi goal in the second, Forsberg found himself about to handle the puck in front of his net. When he looked up, he saw the Wild were in the midst of a line change.

Acting quickly, he delivered a perfect feed to Brannstrom at the Minnesota blue line. The defenseman took it from there, beating Filip Gustavsson from high in the left face-off circle at 3:22 to set up Norris’ shootout winner.

On a team featuring firepower like Brady Tkachuk, Claude Giroux and Tim Stützle, it was the Forsberg-Brannstrom combination that saved the day.

“It’s a set play by us,” Brannstrom said, breaking into laughter.

“No, no it’s not. It was a great pass by him. So, it was nice to see it go in.

“Nice shot too.”

All joking aside, winning a defensive battle was the recipe Smith had been looking for. As such, he told his players in advance it would be a tight-checking game against the Wild and any victory would likely come in the range of a 2-1 final.

Forsberg’s 24 saves aided the cause, but it was Ottawa’s attention to detail in its defensive zone that was Smith’s big takeaway.

“That’s the way we have to play to give ourselves a chance every night,” he said. “I mean, our [defensive] zone play was as good as it’s been. Neutral zone too. We broke the puck out well. We did a lot of good things. And you know what? We ended up winning the game. But even if we’d lost, I’d be up there saying the same thing.

“I just thought as a group, we looked a lot more connected.”

As a result, the Senators headed back to Ottawa on Saturday having won both of their games in Sweden. They defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-4 on Thursday on Stutzle’s goal with two seconds left in overtime.

For Smith, the team bonding aspect in Sweden proved invaluable for his team, considering what it’d been through this season prior to arriving in Scandinavia.

After the Senators were purchased by businessman Michael Andlauer on Sept. 21, the subsequent seven weeks saw forward Shane Pinto suspended and general manager Pierre Dorion fired.

Pinto, who was unsigned because of Ottawa’s NHL salary cap issues, was suspended for 41 games Oct. 26 for activities relating to sports wagering.

Dorion was fired Nov. 1 after the NHL stripped the Senators of a first-round draft pick for their role the trade of forward Evgenii Dadonov to the Vegas Golden Knights on July 28, 2021, and the subsequent, invalidated trade of Dadonov to the Anaheim Ducks by the Golden Knights on March 21, 2022. Dorion was held responsible for not sending the player’s proper no-trade list to Vegas.

Add the Senators’ inconsistent play into the mix, and they needed a change of scenery.

They got one.

“This is obviously a place we could go where … we could just be by ourselves,” Smith said. “And I think we can learn something from that when we get home.

“Turn off the noise. Turn off the outside noise. Stay together. Stay as tight as we’ve been here. And then when we have lulls, they won’t be quite as long.”