Before US-China, ex-NHLs helped Sweden win Olympic Games | News, sports, jobs
Before US-China, ex-NHLs helped Sweden win Olympic Games |  News, sports, jobs

Before US-China, ex-NHLs helped Sweden win Olympic Games | News, sports, jobs

By STEPHEN WHYNO AP Hockey Writer

BEIJING (AP) – Former NHL strikers Lucas Wallmark and Anton Lander scored to help Sweden beat Latvia 3-2 on Thursday in each team’s opening at the men’s Olympic hockey tournament.

Wallmark had one goal on equal strength and another on power play. He was also in the penalty box for two Latvia goals that made the score closer than the game on the ice, which was dominated by Sweden in the first two periods.

“We played pretty solid, I think, for 40 minutes,” said Wallmark, who played in 204 NHL games with Carolina, Chicago and Florida. “We got a little small in the third, but overall it’s nice to get the ‘W’ and start in the right direction and we have something to build on.”

After beating Latvia 26-17 and winning the regulation, Sweden avoided the kind of loss the Czechs experienced on Wednesday night, and overtook Olympic newcomer Denmark 40-17, but lost 2-1.

“There are no easy games: We saw that last night,” said Swedish center Marcus Kruger, who, like Wallmark, played for the Blackhawks in the NHL. “Every team here is capable of doing something really good, so we wanted a good start. It was not perfect, but we got the result we wanted.”

The Swedes built up a three-goal lead just past the middle of the match. Latvia’s goal by Renars Krastenbergs and Nikolajs Jelisejevs made it interesting, but Sweden’s goalkeeper Lars Johansson made 15 saves to retain the victory.

The game took place several hours before the US opens against China, which has several US players who naturalized themselves to represent the host country. Boston University’s Drew Commesso, a Blackhawks prospect, is expected to start and become the youngest U.S. goalkeeper to play in the Olympics.

“You just start itching after playing,” said American center Matty Beniers, one of 15 college players on the team. “You practice twice and you just start itching to play. You just want to get into the tournament. We’re ready to go.”

Finland were ready to go in their first match, beating Slovakia 6-2 behind a hat-trick from Sakari Manninen on his 30th birthday. Juraj Slavkovsky, the youngest player in the tournament and an expected top-10 pick in the 2022 NHL draft, scored Slovakia’s goal.

“It’s positive that I scored two goals, but the important thing is that we did not win,” said the 17-year-old striker. “We have to learn from it, from the mistakes, and just get better.”

Canada face defending silver medalist Germany in the second remaining match on Thursday. The Russians play their next match on Friday against Denmark after starting the tournament by defeating Switzerland 1-0.

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports




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