SAN JOSE, Calif. | A day after Karl Alzner wore a Russia jersey to pay up on his bet following Canada’s world junior championship defeat, Alex Ovechkin was sporting a regular Washington Capitals sweater for practice at HP Pavilion. Sweden defeated Russia 1-0 Thursday night to win the gold medal, but the captain wasn’t subjected to the blue and yellow.
“No jersey bets,” a smiling Nicklas Backstrom said. “I wanted to keep Ovi out of that jersey.”
The Swedes, Backstrom and Marcus Johansson were beaming nonetheless Friday after their country’s first junior gold since 1981.
Johansson drew from his own experience in the 2009 and 2010 in his joy after this victory.
“I know, myself, it was really something you wanted to win and you were so committed to it and the whole Swedish people were into it,” Johansson said. “You just wanted to win with everything you had. It was so tough to lose it the last game against Canada my first year. You don’t want to see anyone go through that.
“Sweden has been so close so many years now and never gotten it. It just felt like a really good year. I think I was almost as happy as the guys who won it.”
But he and Backstrom didn’t do much chirping of the Russians – Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Dmitry Orlov – but it was hard to hide the happiness.
“Me and Marcus are happy that Sweden won today. Otherwise we would be hearing from the Russians,” Backstrom said with a smirk. “I think me and Marcus are a little calmer than them. I think it’s good for the whole team that Sweden won.”
A bottle of wine was on the line, which Backstrom called “fair,” and a price Ovechkin was OK paying instead of wearing a Sweden jersey in practice.
Ovechkin had praise for Russian goalie Andrei Makarov (57 saves) and the entire Swedish team.
“It was tough loss but I think the Sweden deserve it. They play very well. I don’t think we have that kind of energy what Sweden have,” Ovechkin said. “We have not that many chance to score goal. Our goalie play unbelievable. When we have the moment we can score we have a post and we have a breakaway with 30 seconds left in the third period.”
Mika Zibanejad, an Ottawa Senators prospect, scored the game-winner in overtime for Sweden, setting off celebrations that included the country’s studio analysts.
“It’s really, really, really big,” Johansson said. “I don’t think it’s the same as when Canada wins it every other year.