BEIJING ( Associated Press) — Former NHL forwards Lucas Wallmark and Anton Lander scored to help Sweden beat Latvia 3-2 on Thursday in each team’s opener at the Olympic men’s hockey tournament.
Wallmark had a goal at even strength and another on the power play. He was also in the penalty box for two Latvia goals that made the score closer than the play on the ice, which was dominated by Sweden for 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 were getting a little bit 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.”
Outshooting Latvia 26-17 and winning in regulation, Sweden avoided the kind of loss the Czechs experienced Wednesday night, outshooting Olympic newcomer Denmark 40-17 but losing 2-1.
“There’s no easy games: We saw that last night,” said Sweden 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 wasn’t perfect, but we got the result we wanted.”
The Swedes built a three-goal lead by just past the midway point of the game. Latvia goals by Renars Krastenbergs and Nikolajs Jelisejevs made it interesting, but Sweden goaltender Lars Johansson made 15 saves to preserve the victory.
The game took place several hours before the United States opens against China, which has several American players who naturalized to represent the host country. Boston University’s Drew Commesso, a Blackhawks prospect, is expected to start and become the youngest US goaltender to play in the Olympics.
“You just start itching to play,” said US 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.”
In other action, Canada faces Germany and Finland takes on Slovakia. The Russians play their next game Friday against Denmark after starting the tournament by defeating Switzerland 1-0.
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