By Josh Ferguson
Team USA claimed Group A supremacy from the Canadians and collect a bye to the quarterfinals with a 5-3 victory at Canada Hockey Place on Sunday night.
The Swedes survived a scare in Game 2 thanks to a pair of goals from Daniel Alfredsson and squeaked by Belarus with a 4-2 win in Group C action at Canada Hockey Place on Friday.
Sweden looked like they were going to run away with the game from the drop of the puck by going up 2-0 in the first while outshooting Belarus 17-6.
Daniel Sedin opened the scoring at 6:40 when he buried his own rebound past Belrusian keeper Andrei Mezin on a behind-the-back pass from brother Henrik.
The Swedes made it a two-goal game on the power play when Magnus Johansson spotted Alfredsson streaking to the Belarusian goal and made a tape-to-tape pass to the Ottawa Senators captain who made no mistake and zipped it past Mezin.
The ice continued to look like it was tilted in Sweden’s favor when Johan Franzen made it 3-0 midway through the second period. Franzen, who was a late replacement for injured Red Wings teammate Tomas Holmstrom, one-timed a pass from Samuel Pahlsson through the wickets of the Belarusian netminder.
Sweden, who infamously lost in the Olympic quarterfinals to Belarus in 2002, seemed content to sit back with the lead, but Belarus made them pay on the power play when Dmitri Meleshko slapped a loose puck past Swedish ‘tender Jonas Gustavsson at 14:40 of the second. After making the initial save, Gustavsson went into snow-angel mode rather than focusing on the second attempt that narrowed the gap to 3-1.
Thanks to some solid goaltending from Mezin, Belarus stuck around despite being outshot 31-12 through two periods.
The Belarusians made things exciting in the third when Meleshko capitalized for on his second marker of the match on another juicy rebound off the pad of Gustavsson to make it a one-goal game.
Konstantin Zakharov almost completed the comeback when he beat ‘The Monster,’ but not the post. That was as close as Belarus would come, though, and Alfredsson added another goal with 10 seconds left in the third to put the nail in the coffin.
Although Gustavsson was shaky at times, he was good enough for the Swedes to win and stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced. At the other end, Mezin kept his team within reach of Sweden the whole game and turned aside 34 shots.
Sweden (2-0-0-0) will rekindle their rivalry with Finland on Sunday to wrap up the Group C round robin in a rematch of the 2006 gold medal game. Belarus (0-2-0-0) is right back at it on Saturday when they faceoff against Germany.