Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson knows the danger of a matchup between a No. 2 and No. 8 seed all too well. But unlike Sweden’s shocking loss to Belarus at the 2002 Winter Games, the top-seeded Swedes shut out the first-time Olympic Slovenia team in the tournament’s first quarterfinal game Wednesday.
"I was really impressed," Alfredsson told IIHF’s Lucas Aykroyd of Slovenia. "I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never played against them, but we scouted them pretty well and we knew they were a feisty team. I can see them getting better and better, especially as guys get experience on the big stage."
The first Olympic game between the two countries may have ended in a lopsided 5-0 score in favor of Sweden, but it was still a one-goal contest early in the final period.
Alexander Steen cleaned up a shot by Alfredsson on a power play with just one minute remaining in the first to give Sweden a 1-0 advantage. Alfredsson’s shot blasted off the end boards and reached Steen on a perfect angle, and the Blues forward found the back of the net for his first goal of the tournament. The assist from Alfredsson marked the Wings veteran’s 27th career point in 24 games at the Olympics.
"He’s got a great shot," Steen said of Alfredsson. "We’ve been using that a lot."
That score would stand until early in the third period, as both teams were held scoreless in the second.
"We had our fair share of chances to expand the lead," said Steen, whose goal stood as the game-winner. "Their goalie made some big saves. We stuck with it, kept our foot on the gas, and started putting the puck in during the third."
Daniel Sedin found the back of the net within the first two minutes of the third, while Loui Eriksson’s fourth career Olympic goal gave the Swedes a 3-0 lead six minutes later. Carl Hagelin added two goals of his own in the final 10 minutes to extend Sweden’s lead to five goals.
Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall earned an assist on Hagelin’s first goal, while Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, who is tied for first in points in the Olympic tournament with three goals and four assists, recorded an assist on Hagelin’s final score.
The defeat ended Slovenia’s Cinderella story, as the country was making its Olympic debut at the 2014 Winter Games. Although few people had expected the Slovenians to win a single game, the team earned a 3-1 victory over Slovakia in the preliminary tournament and upset Austria in the qualification round Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinals.
"It’s been a great tournament for us," said Slovenia forward Ziga Jeglic. "We’ll have our heads up high when we come home."
Behind 19 saves, Henrik Lundqvist earned his fourth career shutout at the Winter Games, the most shutouts recorded by a goaltender in the modern era of the Olympics. Lundqvist is now 4-0 in the tournament as Sweden advances to the semifinals Friday against the winner of the quarterfinal game between Russia and Finland. The last team to go undefeated and win the gold medal was the Soviet Union in 1984.
"We're ready to step it up," said Chicago forward Marcus Kruger. "We've been playing against three pretty similar teams in our last three games, so we know it's going to be very tough to step up a notch for Russia or Finland. This late in the tournament there are only going to be hard games."
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