QUEBEC – The sluggish Swedes know they need step it up at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.
Sweden got off to another slow start Wednesday against Switzerland, but unlike their last two games when they rallied to score 15 goals in a pair of wins, the Swedes were unable to kickstart their attack in a 4-2 loss.
The result serves as a wake-up call for an undermanned Swedish team that is minus most of its NHL-based offensive talent.
“I think we didn’t skate enough … they dictated the game from the beginning to the end,” Swedish captain Kenny Jonsson said. “I hope this is a good wake-up call that we have to play 60 minutes every game. The only time we played with any desperation was in the last five minutes.”
In the other early game, Finland edged Slovakia 3-2 in Halifax. In the late games, Norway and Germany were to meet in Halifax while France and Belarus were scheduled to face off in Quebec City.
The Swiss clogged the neutral zone for much of the game and their checking lines succeeded in shutting down a Swedish attack.
With the win, the Swiss claimed top spot in Group A at 3-0.
Thierry Paterlini, Andreas Ambuhl, Thibault Monnet and Thomas Ziegler scored for the Swiss while Fredrik Warg and Patrik Hornqvist replied for the Swedes.
An undermanned Sweden (2-1) played passively and a lack of discipline at the end of the game cost them in an affair that had few quality scoring chances for both sides.
“They outworked us in all the parts of the game,” Swedish head coach Bengt-Ake Gustaffson said.
“We couldn’t compete today.”
Switzerland led 2-1 after the first period one goals by Paterlini and Ambuhl.
Paterlini scored just 48 seconds into the game, dekeing Swedish goaltender Stefan Liv on a rush. Ambuhl’s shot went in over Liv’s shoulder as the goalie dropped down too quickly.
“Things really went the way we were hoping today,” said Ralph Krueger, the Canadian-born Swiss head coach.
“We really badly needed a lead to have a chance in this game today.”
Sweden got on the board at 10:47 of the first period when Warg sailed an innocent looking shot towards Swiss goaltender Jonas Hiller, who was screened on the play by Mattias Weinhandl.
Hiller, who made 28 stops, says the win should be a shot in the arm for the Swiss squad.
“It’s always good to win and a win over Sweden is good for the confidence,” said Hiller, who plays for the Anaheim Ducks. “But every game starts again at 0-0 and we now know that we can win against the better teams and we can do a lot with this team.”
Hiller hopes to get another start during the tournament, with starter Martin Gerber of the Ottawa Senators getting a day off Wednesday.
Having two NHL-calibre goalies is a boon for the Swiss, says forward Julien Sprunger.
“Defensively we know we’re solid and it gives the forwards some more confidence,” Sprunger said.
After a scoreless second, the Swiss made it a two-goal lead at 5:23 of the third, when Sprunger’s hit in the corner allowed Monnet to strip the puck from Anton Stralman and head in front of Liv, beating him with a backhand.
Hornqvist scored a short-handed goal at 19:01 to cut the Swiss lead to one, but penalties hamstrung the Swedes late in the game.
Niclas Wallin was given a five-minute major for checking Roman Wick from behind and received an automatic game misconduct.
A dazed Wick had to be helped off the ice and Krueger said after the game the prognosis didn’t look good for the Swiss forward.
Minutes later, Vancouver Canucks defenceman Alexander Elder was given a 10-minute misconduct plus a minor penalty for checking from behind.
Ziegler added an empty-net goal for the Swiss with seven seconds left in the third.
“Its frustrating when you’re losing the whole game, we had no momentum,” Jonsson said. “I’m not going to say that you should hit guys from behind to get momentum but these two guys tried to finish their checks and sometimes (injuries) happen in these situations.”
Liv stopped 25 in the Sweden net, but Jonsson said goaltending had nothing to do with the loss.
Sweden’s No. 1 netminder Henrik Lundqvist is in Quebec City and expected to play in the qualification rounds beginning Thursday after his New York Rangers were eliminated from the NHL playoffs.
San Jose Sharks defenceman Douglas Murray is also expected to be in the lineup later this week for Sweden.
The paid attendance for the game at Le Pepsi Colisee was 7,939.
Finland 3 Slovakia 2
At Halifax, the Finns clinched top spot in Group C with a victory over the struggling Slovaks.
Niko Kapanen, Tuomo Ruutu and Teemu Selanne scored for Finland while Robert Petrovicky and Miroslav Kovacik replied for Slovakia.
Niklas Backstrom made 37 saves in the Finnish net.
The Finns (3-0) remain undefeated in the tournament while Slovakia slipped to 1-2.
Belarus 3 France 1
At Quebec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexei Kalhuzhny each had a goal and an assist to lead Belarus past France.
Alexei Ugarov had the other Belarussian goal, while Vitali Koval turned aside 19 shots in the win.
Olivier Coqueux had the lone goal for the French.
Belarus improved to 1-2 with the win, while France fell to 0-3.
Norway 3 Germany 2
At Halifax, Morten Ask scored the game winner with just over four minutes left in regulation as the Norwegians knocked off Germany.
Mats Zuccarello Aasen and Marius Holtet added singles for Norway (1-2), while Mats Trygg added three assists.
Philip Gogulla and Marco Sturm responded for the Germans (1-2).