Two goals from Erik Karlsson catapulted Sweden to a 4-2 win today over the Czech Republic in the first men’s hockey game of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Karlsson drew first blood in the contest, proving why so many think Sweden is a gold medal contender: a team with strong scoring up front as well as from the blue line, and notable goaltender Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes.
The Czechs made a surprising decision not to start their strongest goaltender in the contest, Ondrej Pavelec, opting for Jakob Kovar instead. As a result the match became less about Sweden proving they have the talent to win and more about the Czech Republic’s decision that may have cost them the game.
Patrick Berglund would find the back of the net three minutes after Karlsson, lifting Sweden to a 2-0 lead after one period of play. In the second, Sweden’s captain Henrik Zetterberg put a puck with eyes for the back of the net past Kovar. Alexander Salak replaced Kovar for the Czech Republic, their coaching staff making the clear decision not to play Pavelec, who reportedly did not even dress.
Karlsson would net his second goal of the game, capitalizing with nine seconds left on a power play, firing a rocket from the blue line resulting in a 4-0 lead for Sweden.
The Czechs came back later in the second period, though, when Marek Zidlicky collected a drop pass and fired the puck over Lundqvist’s shoulder to make the score 4-1. Czech legend Jaromir Jagr notched a goal of his own when he took a shot from down low which crept across the goal line on Lundqvist’s stick side.
The Czechs could not muster another goal in the third period, however, and the final score would be 4-2.
Sweden will next face Switzerland on Friday and Latvia on Saturday in round robin play.