QUEBEC CITY – Sweden and the Czech Republic played goal tag for three periods, taking turns in scoring goals. Swedes got the last word en route to a 4-3 win.
In the first period, the teams were simply sizing each other up. With six penalties called, the pace of the game wasn’t as high as in either team’s previous games.
Five minutes into the game, Czech goalie Milan Hnilicka showed that he's still got what it takes when he stopped Per Ledin’s shot at point-blank range, taking care of the rebound as well.
The Czechs got their big break with five minutes remaining in the first period when first Daniel Fernholm got a penalty for hooking, and then 56 seconds later, Magnus Johansson sent the puck over the boards, giving the Czechs a 5-on-3 powerplay.
Coach Alois Hadamczik let Patrik Elias’s line play the entire powerplay, with meager results. Or, no results.
Six minutes into the second period, the Czechs were struggling to get the puck out of their zone when Anton Stralman grabbed it and drove toward the net. Hnilicka stopped his backhander, but Stralman followed his own shot and dumped the rebound into the net.
A minute later, on a Czech powerplay, Tomas Kaberle’s slapshot from the blueline hit Elias’s stick on the way, and the puck was deflected to the net to tie the game at 1-1.
At 33:32, Nils Ekman carried the puck into the Czech zone, sent it to his right where Marcus Nilson was skating towards the net. Nilson took a wrist shot from the top of the circle and the puck found its way through Hnilicka’s five-hole, with Daniel Fernholm creating traffic right in front of Hnilicka, blocking his view.
Three seconds later, Radek Vrbata was sent to the penalty box for high sticking, giving Sweden momentum of the game, but the Czech penalty killing unit didn’t have problems, as the Swedish powerplay managed just one shot on goal in the two minutes.
Elias and Kaberle were at it again at 38:26 when the Czechs got a 4-on-3 powerplay. Kaberle sent a cross-ice pass to Elias, who sent the puck to the front of the net where Ales Kotalik steered it in for 2-2.
The Swedish version of Kaberle - Elias hit back. Tony Martensson got the puck on the red line, carried it over the blue line, then dished a pass to Mattias Weinhandl – Sweden’s leading scorer in the tournament and Martensson’s linemate in the Swedish Elite League as well – who snapped a wristshot, beating Hnilicka for 3-2, at 41:14.
Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s goals against average in the two games he had played in the tournament before tonight’s game, was 2.00.
It is now 2.33 after Tomas Fleiscmann tied the game with a wrist shot from the slot at 49.21.
"My teammates (Jaroslav) Hlinka and (Martin) Erat did a good job behind the net, Hlinka passed the puck to me and I put it up high. You have to just try to get it in the open areas, and I was lucky to get it in even though the puck was rolling," Fleischmann said.
But the Swedes still had one more goal in them. Nicklas Backstrom took the puck into the Czech zone, passed it to Robert Nilsson whose shot got blocked by Patric Hornqvist in front of the net. Hornqvist grabbed the puck and snapped it in under Hnilicka at 55.07.
"Robert took a shot and it hit me on the chest. When the puck dropped to my feet, I shot it in," Hornqvist said after the game.
"We tried to come back every time even when the time was running out, but maybe we were a little tired," said Fleischmann.
"They are a patient team, they waited for us in the neutral zone all game long, and they did it well," he said.
Marcus Nilson got his second of the night when he sent the puck to an empty Czech net with 26 seconds remaining.
If Russia beats Switzerland tomorrow, the Swedes and Czechs will meet in a quarterfinal game on Wednesday.
"Now we can think about that, but we didn't before the game," said Fleischmann.
"We know what to improve, and what we have to do to beat them, but we have to play our best game in the quarterfinal," he added.
Nicklas Backstrom was acting captain in his second game, as Kenny Jonsson was still sidelined.
"The coach picked me as the captain, but I'm just trying to be myself. It's an honor, but I probably show it more on the ice than off it," he said.
"We've played better and better, and hope to win in the playoff stage as well. It's just one game, and anything can happen. We'll rest for a couple of days and then focus on the quarterfinal," he said.
Patrik Elias left the game in the middle of the third period after hitting his leg on the camera inside the Swedish goal.