STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Paul Kariya knows all about playing games that count in Europe, including in the Olympics.
Kariya is still remembered by many hockey fans in Sweden. At the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, he missed the last penalty shot for Canada in a shootout that clinched Sweden’s gold medal.
“I would love to get an opportunity to play for my country again,” Kariya said. “Lillehammer in 1994 was probably one of the biggest highlights in my career even though we lost.”
On Friday, his team won. Kariya scored two goals as the St. Louis Blues rallied to edge the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in their opening game of the NHL regular season.
St. Louis turned it around by scoring three straight goals within a span of 5:05 in the second period.
The comeback started when Kariya got the first of his two goals on the power play, beating goalie Chris Osgood with a shot from the point. The veteran forward scored again at 17:36 to win it, beating Osgood with a shot to the stick side after skating in alone.
“In the first half of the game, we weren’t playing our game,” Kariya said. “We started to get going in the second period, playing in their zone and getting the power play.”
B.J. Crombeen had tied the score 3-3 when he knocked in a rebound.
The third period was scoreless.
The Blues’ win spoiled the homecoming of seven Swedes on the Detroit team.
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, a six-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman who hails from a city near Stockholm, had a disappointing outing and finished with no points.
“My body feels good, but I just have to play better tomorrow,” said the 39-year-old Lidstrom, Detroit’s oldest player. “We didn’t really generate a whole lot. It was fun to play at home before a sold-out crowd. But it would have been much more fun if we had won. We’ll get another chance tomorrow.”
The Blues and Red Wings face off again Saturday in Stockholm.
For the Red Wings, it was almost like home. There were red jerseys all over the building.
Detroit was listed as the home team and the pro-Detroit sellout crowd of 13,850 at Ericsson Globe arena gave the Red Wings the biggest ovation during pre-game presentations. Detroit is arguably the most popular NHL team in Sweden.
Several hundred fans from the Detroit area made the overseas trip for the game.
After a slow start, the Blues took the lead 7:54 in when Jay McClement one-timed a shot from just outside the crease.
Jonathan Ericsson, one of Detroit’s eight Swedes, tied it off a rebound after Kirk Maltby skated in from the right side.
Maltby put Detroit ahead 2-1 with a short-handed goal on a solo breakaway, beating Chris Mason with a shot high to the glove side.
At the end of the period, Detroit had a two-man advantage for nearly 2 minutes but failed to score.
Ville Leino made it 3-1 for Detroit with a power-play goal in the second period. Unchecked, the Finnish forward sent a shot from the right circle past Mason’s glove side.
NHL players in Sweden is nothing new. Canada played an exhibition in an adjacent arena to the Globe before heading to Moscow for the last four games in the historic Summit Series in 1972 that had NHL players facing the Soviet Union for the first time.
And many NHL teams, among them such Original Six clubs as the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs, and teams from the old World Hockey Association have played tournaments and exhibitions in Sweden over the years.
But this is only the second time in league history two teams began their regular season in Sweden, one of Europe’s top hockey nations which won the 2006 Olympic gold medal at Turin. Last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators split their opening weekend series in the same arena.