It has no doubt been a memorable week for forward Jimmie Ericsson, who joined his younger brother and Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson on Team Sweden, marking the first time the two have played together in their professional careers. After Sweden’s 5-3 victory over Latvia Saturday, Ericsson will have one more memorable moment to carry with him for years to come, as the forward’s first Olympic goal was also the game-winning goal as he helped his country finish unbeaten in the preliminary tournament.
"We know Lativa is a good team and if you make mistakes, they can come fast at you," Bruins forward Loui Eriksson told IIHF’s Slava Malamud. "It's been three games in four days, so we will take all the positives we can from the three wins and bring them to the quarterfinal."
It was a special teams show between the two countries, as six of the game’s eight goals were scored on the power play, one shy of the Olympic record for most power play goals in a single game. Sweden converted on all four of its one-man advantage opportunities.
Blues forward Patrik Berglund put Sweden on the scoreboard first, scoring a power play goal with less than five minutes left in the first period. But the Swedes had little time to celebrate, as Lauris Darzins tied the game three minutes later. Janis Sprukts made a no-look pass to the forward from the blue line, and Darzins beat Henrik Lundqvist for the score.
"We have great pride in the kind of game that we play," Zemgus Girgensons said. "We tried to get under the Swedish team's skin. We competed really well against them."
Sprukts notched a goal of his own early in the second period to give Latvia its first lead of the game. The forward’s shot from the slot marked his second goal in two games.
The Latvians didn’t enjoy their lead for long, though. Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson scored his third goal of the 2014 Winter Games just over one minute later to tie the game 2-2. The defenseman received a pass from Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson at the top of the right circle and beat Kristers Gudlevskis for the third power play goal of the game.
Alfredsson scored his second goal of the tournament late in the middle period to restore Sweden’s one-goal lead. Vancouver’s Alexander Edler found Alfredsson on the left side of the goal, and the forward’s one-timer found the back of the net with nine seconds left in the team’s third power play opportunity.
The Swedes took a two-goal lead into the third period as Ericsson, the only non-NHL player on Sweden’s roster, recorded his first goal of the Olympic tournament with just over one minute left in the second. Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson deflected his shot off the end wall, and Ericsson swiftly handled the rebound and snuck his shot past Gudlevskis for the game-winning goal.
Latvia stormed back in the final period, though, as Girgensons quickly cut Sweden’s lead to one goal within the first two minutes of play.
That was as close as the Latvians would get, though, as Edler scored his first Olympic goal and Sweden’s first even strength goal of the game midway through the third, securing the 5-3 victory.
"This was my first Olympics and I kind of felt that we would be overpowered," Sprukts said. "But now I think we can play with any team. We are very happy we've played evenly with all our opponents and will be looking ahead confidently.”
With victories over the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Latvia, Sweden finished unbeaten in the preliminary tournament and clinched a bye in the first round and will continue its quest for gold on Feb. 19.
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