Henrik Zetterberg didn’t skip a beat transitioning from the NHL to the Olympic stage, as the Team Sweden captain scored his first goal of the 2014 Winter Games in Sweden’s 4-2 victory over the Czech Republic Wednesday.
Zetterberg’s fifth career Olympic goal came within the first minute of the second period to give Sweden a 3-0 lead and caused the Czechs to pull Jakub Kovar from goal in favor of Alexander Salak.
But the change did little to slow Sweden’s attack, as Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson scored his second goal of the game on a power play three minutes later to give the Swedes a commanding 4-0 lead.
“They’re smart players, they surprise you so many times with smart plays,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist told NBC Sports Net’s Pierre McGuire of Sweden’s defensemen. “I don’t even see it what they do under pressure but it’s impressive. Obviously it’s important we don’t get too comfortable but just the way they solve different situations it’s just fun to watch. Obviously they have a little more space here so they can find that opening a little more often maybe.”
Karlsson’s first goal midway through the opening period was originally credited to Detroit’s Daniel Alfredsson, as the Wings’ forward screened Kovar and appeared to tip in the defenseman’s shot. But the call was reversed upon further review, and the 23-year-old earned his first career Olympic goal on a delayed penalty call.
But trailing 4-0, the Czechs rallied in the second period to score two goals in two minutes and cut Sweden’s lead in half heading into the third. That was as close as they’d get, however, as the Swedes hung on to win their first game of the preliminary tournament.
“Well after we scored the fourth one we got a little sloppy and you know Czech is a team where when you lose the puck in the wrong area they’re really quick to strike,” said Lundqvist, who made 27 saves in the victory. “I thought we regrouped a little bit in the third but then they came hard, they took chances and that’s what they do when they’re behind a couple goals but overall a really strong game for us and especially special teams really stepped up tonight.”
While Zetterberg skated on Sweden’s first line with Blues forward Alexander Steen and Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson picked up right where they left off with the Wings to form Tre Kronor’s top defensive pairing. Detroit forwards Gustav Nyquist and Alfredsson paired up with Blues forward Patrik Berglund, who also recorded a goal in the win, to complete Team Sweden’s third line.
Kronwall and Zetterberg were the only Wings players to record points in the victory, as the defenseman assisted on his NHL and Olympic captain’s game-winning goal.
Sweden will be back in action for its second group matchup Friday against Switzerland at 7:30 a.m. on NBC Sports Net.
Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea