Hockey fans in Ottawa haven’t had many reasons to be excited over their Senators this season, but they could feel some comfort at the 13 minute mark of the second period of this game.
The game was put out of Slovakia’s reach by Erik Karlsson, who one day should suit up for the NHL team in Canada’s capital.
The defenseman, who already plays pro hockey for Frölunda in the Swedish Elitserien, found lots of space in the slot and beat Janos with a well-aimed wrister from 12 meters out. The goal announcement was met with extraordinary joy by the knowledgeable Civic Centre crowd, as Karlsson was drafted by the Senators in the first round (15th overall) of last year’s NHL draft.
A cynical observer in the press-box uttered this after Karlsson’s goal: “He would be the Sens’ best defenseman – today.”
"My future NHL career in Ottawa isn't my focus right now," said Karlsson. "My focus is on my club team in Sweden and on the World Juniors. But of course, it's a special feeling to score such an important goal in Ottawa."
Much like against Finland on opening day, the Swedes opened with a furious tempo before again settling down a bit, unable to sustain the same kind of energy throughout the game.
"After a good start, probably we get too scared of making mistakes, and this affects our game," said Karlsson.
It took the Swedes just 62 seconds to draw first blood when Simon Hjalmarsson slid a backhand past Janos. Mikael Backlund doubled the lead with five minutes left in the first period when he broke down the middle on a power play and scored on a low shot.
The goaltender was Slovakia’s best player and he kept his team in the game during long stretches of Swedish dominance in the middle stanza. But not even a spectacular Janos could do anything when Karlsson put the game away with the 3-0 goal midway through the game.
The Slovak goalie was not the only stopper who enjoyed a great night. Despite not facing as many shots as Janos, Sweden’s Jacob Markström showed-off with some remarkable saves, reinforcing the belief that he may be the best goalie here in Ottawa.
"He gives us confidence," said Karlsson. "He's a goalie that can win games for us. Some of his saves are as important as our goals."
Markström’s size, mobility, and superior reflexes make him very hard to beat and the Slovaks had to wait until their 24th shot 5:33 into the last period before they got one past him on a power play. There wasn’t much Markström could do when, after a series of saves, he lay flat on his back and Martin Uhnak tapped the puck into the net.
Sweden is 2W-0L while Slovakia dropped to 1W-1L. With this win, Sweden has all but secured a group final vs. Russia on Sunday. The winner of the group earns a direct bye to the semifinal, while teams who finish second and third play cross-over quarter-finals.
Sweden plays Latvia on Monday, while Slovakia faces Russia on Tuesday.
NOTE: Sweden’s first-line forward Jacob Josefsson missed the game due to stomach flu. This gave the opportunity for Mattias Tedenby to play in his first tournament game…Sweden has defeated Slovakia in the last four games between the teams: 4-3 (2008), 6-3 (2007), 6-0 (2006), 3-0 (2005). Slovakia’s last win was in 2004 (1-0).
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com)