Nylander makes scoring start
by Andy Potts|22 MAY 2022
Sweden's William Nylander skates away from Norway's Michael Haga in World Championship action in Tampere.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
How can you add to a winning team? Well, how about bringing a forward whose World Championship record to date is worth 32 (12+20) points in 18 games? That’s what William Nylander brings to Sweden’s offence after jetting into Tampere following the Maple Leafs’ play-off exit.

The 26-year-old right winger wasted no time in adding to that haul in Sunday night’s 7-1 victory over Norway. His first game in the 2022 tournament brought a goal and two assists as the Tre Kronor overpowered the opposition to maintain its hopes of taking top spot ahead of Finland in Group B. More of this form and Nylander could be adding to the gold medal he won with Sweden in 2017.

"It felt good. I think our team grew as the game went on," Nylander said of his first game here. "We competed out there and it was a huge win for us."

Nylander wasn’t the only recent arrival to make a big impact. Jacob Peterson, who came here after the end of the season in Dallas, scored twice. Rasmus Asplund matched that and Lucas Wallmark, Sweden’s leading scorer at the Olympics, opened his account here. Max Fribeg was also on target for the Tre Kronor, while Tobias Fladeby, one of several Norwegian players based in Sweden, got a consolation effort at the other end.

"I think our energy wasn’t really there today," said Norway's captain Mathis Olimb. "We’re an energy team. When we’re the underdog, we need to have that work ethic and I think today it wasn’t our best." 

Despite the big names on display, it looked as though Sweden’s first goal had come not from a high-profile arrival but from then team's unheralded fourth line. Nils Aman had the puck in the net, but his wraparound effort was called back after a bench challenge: Norway’s Petter Thoresen correctly felt that Oskar Lang’s presence on the crease interfered with goaltender Jonas Arntzen’s ability to do his job.
Sweden vs Norway - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
SWE NOR 22 MAY 2022
The Tre Kronor kept plugging away and got the opening goal for real on 11:48. It’s a hockey truism that when you get pucks to the net, good things happen, and this play underlined the point. Jacob Peterson got his first goal of the tournament when he fired a feed towards Carl Klingberg on the slot and saw it bounce off a Norwegian skate to beat Arntzen. Nylander picked up a secondary assist on the play.

"It wasn’t very high tempo or physical out there, but we’re happy for the win," said Swedish defenceman Henrik Tommernes. "We got some goals, we got the power play going, and we’re ready for the last game of the group stage."

Norway quickly had a chance to respond when it had a 5-on-3 power play. However, the Polar Bears were unable to capitalize on that opportunity on a night when the offence stubbornly refused to ignite.

There was better news for Norway on its defence, which did a good job of limiting Swedish opportunities in the first period. For the new generation of Norwegian blue liners, players like Emil Lilleberg and Max Krogdahl, this was a stiff test but one that they embraced willingly to keep their team in the game in the opening frame.

However, quick goals midway through the second period put Sweden in complete control. First came Nylander, marking his arrival in Tampere with a power play marker. He exploited a gap on the right-hand side of the Norwegian defence, exchanging passes with Erik Gustafsson and rampaging off the boards to rifle home a wrister from the face-off dot.

That might be something of a tonic after disappointment in Toronto. "I was kinda upset about the way our season ended so I thought it was a good thing to come here and keep playing," Nylander added.

Then a Henrik Tommernes stretch pass opened up the Norwegian defence and Carl Grundstrom fired in a shot that was too hot for Arntzen. As the goalie lost track of the rebound and struggled to recover his position, Peterson was able to follow up and stuff the puck home for his second of the night.

Two goals in 64 seconds left the Norwegians with a mountain to climb; another tally three minutes later had them embarking on  that metaphorical ascent from the depths of the nearest fjord. This time the defence lost control of the puck behind the net and Asplund nipped in to feed Joel Kellman. He was foiled by a combination of Arntzen and Mattias Norstebo, but Asplund jumped on the rebound to make it 4-0 and sink Norway’s hopes.

Up to this stage, little had been seen of Rasmus Dahlin, a big player in previous games. However, the dangerous defenceman got back to his familiar role quarterbacking the Swedish power play and his return pass for Wallmark wrongfooted the Norwegian PK as the Zurich-bound centre potted his first of this tournament.

"They’re a good team and we had a rough second period there," added Olimb. "We took too many penalties again and it’s tough to play against these teams shorthanded."

Norway finally had something to cheer at the start of the third period when Tobias Fladeby forced the puck home after a scramble in front of Magnus Hellberg’s net. Johannes Johannesen’s shot caused the problems for Sweden, and Fladeby, who plays his club hockey for Tingsryd in the Allsvenskan, took advantage to grab his first World Championship goal.

Fladeby was promoted to the Norwegian top line alongside the Olimb brothers, with Mats Rosseli Olsen sitting this one out. "It’s great playing with them, they both have a lot of experience at this tournament," the goalscorer said. "They are two really good players that I can learn a lot from."

In response, Lang fired in a shot that was stopped on the goal line and Friberg’s outstretched stick slid the puck into the Norwegian net.

Then at the other end, a freak incident had many in the crowd poring over the rule book. A dump and chase from centre ice seemed routine until the puck bounced off the ankle of one of the linesmen and flew straight into the Swedish net. A video review established that the deflection off Nick Briganti went directly past Hellberg and thus the play was wiped off. Had any other player touched the puck before it crossed the goal line, Norway would have had a second marker.

Instead it was Asplund who got his second of the game, steering home a Nylander feed at the back door. That takes Asplund to six goals and makes him the top sniper in this tournament to date, ahead of Switzerland's Nico Hischier on five.

Now Sweden is looking to ensure that it secures a top-two finish and avoids a quarter-final trip to Helsinki. "We want to win every game," added Tommernes. "It’s a big advantage if we can finish first or second in the group and stay here in Tampere for the quarter-finals."
Sweden vs Norway - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship