VANCOUVER – Sweden began their journey to a repeat gold by beating Germany 2-0. Germany didn't give up the points easily, though, making Swedes work for full 60 minutes.
Former Vancouver Canuck Mattias Öhlund led the way, while Henrik Lundqvist recorded a shutout in Swedish goal.
"It's a process. We've been together for three days, had a practice and a game, so we just have to be patient," Lundqvist said.
"We knew they'd be a hard-working team and that we'd have to match that hard work," he added.
Every country has its characteristics. Every country has its own style of hockey. Canada has their aggressiveness, the US likes speed, the Finns stick to the system, Germans work hard, and the Swedes, they have patience. Or, in Swedish, they’ve got “tålamod”, pronounced [TOH-la-mood]. That’s what the kids learn, and that’s what the fans learn to learn, following their beloved Tre Kronor.
Just keep playing the way you always do, and don’t panic. Be patient, and the results will come.
And, let’s face it, it’s worked pretty well for them over the years.
Of course, it helps when Sweden has some of the brightest NHL superstars on its roster, from Henrik Sedin - second in the NHL scoring - to his brother Daniel, to Nicklas Bäckström - fourth in NHL scoring - to Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Lidström, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and Peter Forsberg, one-time most valuable player in the NHL. All in all, Team Sweden has six Stanley Cup champions and 13 Olympic champions from 2006 on its roster.
However, tonight, they did show signs of restlessness. Germany outshot Sweden 7-6 in the first period, and at the beginning of the second, Sweden handed Germany a two-man advantage for 1:09 minutes. Christian Ehrhoff scared the Swedes when his blast from the slot hit the post.
"If the shot had gone in, it would have looked a little different. They scored on their next power play. We played well, we just couldn’t score," said Marcel Goc.
Of course, it wasn't just bad luck, said German forward Jochen Hecht.
"It's tough, they have an excellent goaltender, and most of the time we had nobody there to get the rebound. It's tough to score when they have Henrik in the net," he said.
Just 40 seconds after Team Sweden had killed off the penalty, Marcel Muller got a boarding penalty and when Mattias Ohlund got a chance to wind up his slap shot, he didn’t miss, but instead found a hole high on Thomas Greiss’s glove side, while Henrik Sedin made sure that Greiss didn’t see the puck.
"They had a shot hit the post and another one hit the crossbar, so I think that was the turning point of the game," Lundqvist said.
Swedes also know that as long as they remember to “jobba”, and be patient, they’ll be fine, without having to dazzle.
With about 5:30 minutes remaining in the second period, Daniel Alfredsson forechecked the puck to Sweden in the German corner. Nicklas Bäckström picked it up, went around a German defenceman, and flipped the puck to Loui Eriksson who was wide open at Greiss’s doorstep and tipped the puck in for 2-0, at 34:13.
Unlike the previous games in the tournament, tonight's game stayed close to the end. Germany played disciplined and with better luck - they hit both the crossbar and the post in the game - they could have made it an even tougher night for Sweden.
"They played well, they battled to the end, and gave no openings in their own zone, we didn't get in front of their net and get the really good chances," said Henrik Zetterberg.
While the loss stung, German players stayed optimistic.
"I have to give our team a lot of credit, we hung in there. We're not happy with the loss, but we can be proud with the way we played," said Jochen Hecht.
"It will be more difficult now because the other teams saw that we can keep up with the top teams, but everything is possible with a little luck, you advance, otherwise it’ll be difficult," said goaltender Greiss who recorded 21 saves in the game.
Tonight, though, hard work wasn't enough.
Both Sweden and Germany rest tomorrow, and then play against Belarus and Finland, respectively, on Friday.
"We have to get to know each other. It's not enough to look at the X's and O's on a board, you then have to get on the ice and play," Zetterberg said.