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Karlsson leads Sweden past Czechs in hockey opener
Patrik Berglund also scored and Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves as the Swedes opened the Sochi tournament with a display of their formidable offensive depth. Although Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen are out with injuries, Sweden is confident it has young talent just waiting to fill the net.
“We’ve got a lot of good players,” Eriksson said. “I just want to be part of it.”
Karlsson, the Ottawa Senators’ standout young defenseman, scored the opening goal 10 minutes in and added a power-play goal early in the second period, putting both shots past screens set by his veteran teammates.
When asked if he ever imagined scoring two goals in his Olympic debut, Karlsson shook his head violently enough to send beads of sweat flying across the room.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Karlsson said. “I think we played well, and I played with great players. You know, sometimes you just have to be in the right spot and hit the net, and have someone in front.”
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Karlsson’s similarly talented young partner on defense, had two assists as Sweden thrived without Henrik Sedin or Franzen, who couldn’t travel to Sochi. Those absences leave the Swedes behind Canada and Russia as gold-medal favorites, but they still handled their toughest matchup of the preliminary round with aplomb.
Lundqvist, the star of Sweden’s gold-medal run in Turin eight years ago, comfortably disposed of several nervous moments in the scoreless third period with 15 saves as the Czechs made a late push fueled by a partisan crowd.
“We made it tough for us, but I’m happy with the way we regrouped,” Lundqvist said. “You want to start building something, and this is a good start for us.”
Jaromir Jagr scored a goal in his fifth Olympics, and Marek Zidlicky also scored for the Czechs, who couldn’t overcome shaky goaltending.
Sweden was a nightmare for Kovar, a former fourth-round pick by Philadelphia who now plays in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. He got the start over Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who was scratched by Czech coach Alois Hadamczik.
“They had pretty good traffic in front of the net and got three of the same goals,” said Kovar, who acknowledged the pressure of an Olympic start affected him “maybe a little bit. I would like the first two goals to be different.”
Just three minutes after Karlsson beat Kovar with a long shot during a delayed penalty in the first period, Berglund put a stoppable wrist shot under Kovar’s right arm. Sweden chased Kovar in the opening seconds of the second when Zetterberg’s long shot went through Alexander Steen’s screen.
By returning to goodness, the nation can achieve greatness once again
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