STOCKHOLM – Sweden completed Preliminary Round play with a solid 4-0 win over Latvia in the evening tilt of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship at Globe Arena.
First period goals by Loui Eriksson and Jakob Silfverberg, the arrival of Nicklas Bäckström and exceptional special teams and defence all contributed to a quality end of the first round of the tournament for Tre Kronor.
"It’s fun to play here again and get my first game in," said Bäckström. "We won, too, so that’s good, and we’re looking forward to the quarter-finals against the Czechs."
Sweden scored three power play goals, making the Latvians pay the price when a man down and on the special teams.
With the quarter-final seedings already set, tonight’s game did not have playoff implications. Sweden next takes on the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals to be held here on Thursday.
Eriksson continued his own torrid scoring pace with his fourth goal of the tournament at 4:39. Johan Franzén, returning to the lineup with a broken nose suffered in the game against Russia, worked hard behind the net to get the puck to Henrik Zetterberg who found Eriksson alone in front.
Coming into this contest, Eriksson was tied for third in overall individual scoring. This is his third time representing Sweden at the World Championships and statistically his best tournament yet.
When Kaspars Daugavins was whistled off for tripping at 14:33, Jakob Silfverberg wasted no time in scoring on the power play. Coming at seven seconds after the Daugavins call, the goal put Sweden up 2-0. Bäckström notched his first point with an assist on the play.
Much the same as last night, Latvia could not generate much offense. Latvia has been shut out three straight games to end the tournament. To be clear, Latvia had not scored in 197:29 when Krisjanis Redlihs did so in a 5-0 win against Italy.
"I don’t think it’s so much frustrating as just something we need to overcome," said Janis Sprukts. "It’s like a bad feeling, and you can’t get rid of it. You try and try, and you know it’ll come, but you don’t know when. You just try your best."
Niklas Kronwall provided some electricity when he hit Kaspars Saulietis with a booming check. Saulietis was taking passion of the puck and coming out of his zone but his head was down and didn’t see Kronwall coming. The hit shook up Saulietis who did not return for the third.
Zetterberg’s one timer at 13:45 off a feed from Daniel Alfredsson put Latvia further in a three-goal hole.
Frustrations completely boiled over in the third. There were a few heated exchanges that would briefly erupt with one Latvian player, Koba Jass, given a game misconduct. Jass and Erik Karlsson were both called for roughing at 7:43. When the penalty expired, Jass made a beeline out of the box for Karlsson and began jumped him from behind. For that, Jass was sent packing.
Franzén would add a late goal to make it 4-0 and complete the scoring.
Sweden now faces the Czech Republic on Thursday. Bäckström believes Sweden can do well, provided they play their game.
"We know they’re a good team, and I think we’ve got to play a little better than we did tonight to win. We’ve got to make sure we do all the right things and stay focused."