International Ice Hockey Federation

Tre Kronor rally for win

Tre Kronor rally for win

Swede dreams, Danish nightmares

Published 08.05.2016 22:42 GMT+3 | Author Andy Potts
Tre Kronor rally for win
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 8: Sweden's Mattias Sjogren #15 looks for a scoring chance against Denmark's Sebastian Dahm #32 while Jesper B. Jensen #41 defends during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Denmark flirted with a historic victory but two goals from Mikael Backlund helped Sweden battle back to record a ruthless win and move joint top of Group A.

On the face of it, a 5-2 win for Sweden over Denmark looks like a routine result in World Championship play. But as Group A continues to fascinate the neutrals and frustrate the favourites, Denmark saw a genuine chance to make history evaporate under the glare of a revitalised Swedish power play.

The Danes have never done better than a two-goal loss against their neighbour across the Oresund, but a solid counter-attacking display in the first period earned the outsider a fully deserved 1-0 lead. Things were going right at both ends of the ice: Nikolaj Ehlers was the brightest spark on a lively first line, claiming the opening goal after his shot from the point deflected off a Swedish stick and testing Viktor Fasth more than once.

At the back, Sebastian Dahm continued his impressive form from game one with 11 more saves and the defence was getting bodies and sticks in the way to thwart the Swedes, most notably when Gustav Nyquist’s lovely spin-o-rama pass presented Alexander Wennberg with an open goal, only for Morten Green to force the shot wide of the target.

After watching Sweden struggle to score against Latvia in game one, Denmark could dare to dream at the first intermission. Defenceman Adam Larsson admitted that things were not going at all well for his team.

"We started the game the way we played last time," he complained. "We didn't work hard enough and we didn't play north-south the way we wanted to. That hurt us. We made too many turnovers, but by the start of the second we cleaned that up and minimized their chances."

By the end of that second period the game was turning into a nightmare for Jan Karlsson’s men. Hurt by bad bounces and floored by penalty trouble, the Danes gave up four goals in 12 minutes and the chance of a shock win was gone. Sweden began to show the kind of class that has Par Marts regularly leading his country into the medals and ran up a final scoreline that did not wholly reflect how close we came to yet another Moscow sensation.

Even as the Swedes drew level there was an element of fortune about the tying goal. Denmark’s defence was doing all the right things, getting bodies in front of shots and battling for territory on the slot, but a cruel bounce diverted Oscar Fantenburg’s strike to Robert Rosen and the forward squeezed his shot between Green and Dahm.

Even the goalscorer agreed that luck played its part: "Oscar just tried to get it to the net and it hit something on the way," Rosen said. "It was a lucky bounce that it came to my stick and I just tried to get it on the net."

Denmark had no chance to regroup. A penalty on Morten Madsen presented the Tre Kronor with the chance to get ahead, but again a wicked deflection played a huge role as Mikael Backlund wrangled the puck blindly away from Dahm and rejoiced as it cannoned wildly off a Danish skate and into the empty net.

Now Sweden could establish the traditional gap in class between these teams. Further penalty trouble took the game out of reach. With more than 90 seconds defending a three-on-five the Danes were simply overstretched. Magnus Nygren’s one-timer from the face-off spot made it 3-1 and Backlund added his second of the night to impose maximum punishment for Denmark’s misdemeanours.

"We knew we had to trust our instincts," Rosen added. "We know we're a good team and have lots of skills. After 25 minutes or so we had a lot more movement on offence and created more trouble for them."

By the third period, for the first time in Group A action this year, the outcome was beyond doubt. Gustav Nyquist added a fifth, a composed finish for his second of the tournament, before Jesper Jensen earned a big cheer when he got a consolation goal for plucky Denmark in the last minute.

 

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