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Men's Olympic Hockey Recap: Standings Picture Getting Clearer

Russia, Finland and Sweden all sit at 2-0 with one game left to go, while the Czech Republic came out ahead of Switzerland in a shootout to cap off another day of men's Olympic hockey action.
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Russia Shuts Out Denmark

Russia has improved to 2-0 in men's Olympic hockey action after a shutout victory over Denmark on Friday.

The Danes were hoping to play the shocker role after beating the Czech Republic to open the tournament earlier this week. Denmark, playing in its first Olympic tournament, was led by a strong performance by Montreal Canadiens prospect Frederik Dichow. Dichow was playing in its first men's national team game for the Danes and made 31 stops to keep his team in contention to win.

He was, however, beaten at 28:18 for the first goal of the contest. Pavel Karnaukhov scored on a seemingly open cage after the puck bounced off of an Anton Slepyshev shot, with Karnaukhov making no mistake with the extra room. The Russians couldn't capitalize on its five power plays, but it wouldn't matter as an empty-netter from Kirill Semyonov would seal the deal.

Philadelphia Flyers prospect Ivan Fedotov recorded his second consecutive shutout after stopping everything Switzerland sent his way on Wednesday. Fedotov made 16 stops against Denmark, including a flurry of late chances.

Russia sits first in Group B play and will face off against the Czech Republic next on Saturday at 8:10 AM ET. The Danes will play Switzerland at the same time, a game that could set Denmark to potentially keep second in Group B.

Sweden Remains Perfect

A strong first-period effort was the difference as Sweden sailed to a 4-1 win over Slovakia.

With the loss, Slovakia has fallen to 0-2 and will play in the qualification round next week to try and force a spot in the quarterfinals. Sweden has guaranteed themselves a top-two spot in Group C with the victory.

A great puck-moving play at 11:22 resulted in a goal for Sweden. Lukas Bengtsson got the puck deep into the zone to Max Friberg, who had a few defenders crowding him. Friberg then found Joakim Nordstrom standing alone and set him up for a seemingly open-net goal, putting the Swedes on the board first.

Sweden would take a commanding 3-0 lead into the first break of the game. Lucas Wallmark's third of the tournament would double Sweden's advantage after he used some extra space on the power play to send a shot over Matej Tomek's arm and in at 18:10. Then, with five seconds left in the first, Friberg scored a goal of his own to finish the period while pouring more salt in the wound for Slovakia.

The Slovaks made a goalie change in the second to try and spice things up, pulling Tomek in favor of Patrik Rybar, Slovakia's third goalie to play in five periods of play. Slovakia saw an increase in offensive opportunities, outshooting Sweden 16-9, but couldn't find a way to beat Magnus Hellberg in the second.

Carl Klingberg would add Sweden's fourth goal on an empty-netter, but the Slovaks wouldn't leave without something to celebrate. With just over a minute left in the game, 2022 NHL draft prospect Simon Nemec kept the puck from crossing over the blue line and found fellow 17-year-old Juraj Slafkovsky in the slot. Slafkovsky spun and beat Hellberg to end the shutout, with Slafkovsky scoring his third of the tournament – and Slovakia's third goal, period. At that point, though, the damage had already been done and Sweden was able to hold on for the 4-1 win.

Both teams will finish the round-robin on Feb. 13, with Slovakia playing Latvia in the early game before Sweden battles Finland in the mid-day contest.

Czechs Need Shootout to Beat Switzerland

David Krejci was the lone scorer in the shootout as the Czech Republic held on to beat Switzerland 2-1 on Friday.

The win puts the Czech Republic in third place in Group B, with Denmark's win over the Czechs on opening night proving to be the current tiebreaker for second place.

A fortunate bounce went the Czech Republic's way at 4:33 to open the scoring. Jiri Smejkal's shot bounced off a defender in front and past Swiss goaltender Leonardo Genoni for the opener, two minutes before the Swiss answered back.

Gaetan Haas had a bounce go his way after a scramble in front of the net, with Haas getting in the right spot to poke in the loose disk past Simon Hrubec to make it 1-1.

The game was even after that, with the goaltending duel taking center stage. Switzerland's Leonardo Genoni was busy with 34 stops, while Simon Hrubec sent 24 pucks away from the back of the net for the Czechs. But that meant the offense at both sides had dried up, forcing a shootout to decide the winner.

In the skills competition, former Boston Bruins star David Krejci scored the game-winner to seal the deal on the Czech Republic's first shot. It gave the Czechs its second win in its past four meetings with Switzerland, taking the past two meetings in 2018 and 2022.

Both teams will finish the round-robin on Feb. 12, with the Czechs looking to spoil Russia's perfect run while Switzerland battles against Denmark to try and avoid last place in Group B.

Finns Strong Against Latvia

Latvia gave it everything they had, but it wasn't enough to spark a late-game collapse as Finland skated to a 3-1 win to close out Friday's action.

Finland has taken control of Group C via goal-differential heading into its highly anticipated final preliminary round game against Sweden on Sunday. Latvia, meanwhile, joins Slovakia in the 0-2 club before their final meeting that same day to decide who takes the third spot in the group.

The first half of the game didn't have much to talk about, with no goals in the first 37:58 of play. Goaltending was the name of the game, with Latvia's Janis Kalnins and Finland's Harri Sateri playing spectacularly at both ends. They made 35 and 19 stops, respectively.

But with two minutes to go in the second period, the Finns finally managed to break through and score. Valteri Kemilainen would break the deadlock with a point shot that blasted through traffic and beat Kalnins to make it 1-0.

Then, at 43:01, Rodrigo Abols' power-play goal put Latvia back in the game, drawing comparisons to the team's late-game effort against Sweden to open up the tournament. But a tip from Leo Komarov at 54:42 put Finland back out in front and Marko Anttila's marker four minutes later erased any late momentum the Latvians could have had to seal the deal.

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News & Notes

- Denis Malgin was cleared to play for Switzerland but did not dress in the lineup after spending the start of the tournament in isolation.

- Slovakia's Marko Dano was suspended one game by the IIHF after swinging his stick and hitting Finnish forward Iiro Pakarinen in the face on Thursday. Dano missed the game against Sweden but is eligible to return on Sunday against Latvia.

- Jake Sanderson has arrived in China and is practicing with the United States. It's unclear if he'll play against Canada or whether the team will sit him to get him more rest.

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Three Stars

1. Frederik Dichow, DEN: Allowed just one goal against the Russians and gave his underdog squad a chance to win. Great men's national team debut for the Canadiens prospect.

2. Max Friberg, SWE: A goal and an assist in the first period helped put Sweden well ahead over Slovakia.

3. Leo Komarov, FIN: Scored the game-winner, laid out some opponents and generally had a strong game. Good job, Uncle Leo.

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