The old Henrik Lundqvist was back in net for Sweden.
The 34-year-old Lundqvist made 36 saves to help Sweden beat Finland 2-0 in the World Cup of Hockey on Tuesday.
“We were confident with him coming in today, even after Jacob (Markstrom) played such a good game like he did (on Sunday),” Swedish captain Henrik Sedin said. “Being around Henrik for a few weeks now, we knew he was going to come in and have a great game.”
Anton Stralman and Loui Eriksson scored as the Swedes (2-0-0) got a firm grip on the top spot in Group B. Finland (0-2-0) is facing long odds for advancing to the semifinals.
Lundqvist, who missed Sweden’s first game of the tournament due to an illness, struggled in pre-tournament competition, posting a 4.49 goals-against average and a .778 save percentage in two appearances. The Rangers goaltender was pulled from last Wednesday’s game against Team Europe after allowing five goals on 22 shots in a 6-2 loss.
“I felt pretty rusty out there the first period, not as aware as I wanted to be, but I got some really good help with some loose pucks and stuff like that,” Lundqvist said. “Second and third, I felt more comfortable, but it was fun. I really enjoyed being out there playing. Big game, important game, not being able to play the first, you never know where it’s going when you’re not healthy.”
Tuukka Rask, starting in the Finnish goal over Pekka Rinne, stopped 27 shots.
“We played such a great game, started off well, created so many good scoring chances, but we didn’t score,” Finnish coach Lauri Marjamaki said. “Of course the goalie Lundqvist was impressive. But so proud of my players and our team effort. It was great today. But it is not enough.”
Finland’s Mikael Granlund had two excellent scoring chances just past the midway mark of the third, but Lundqvist got his right pad on the first shot and Granlund put his rebound off the post.
The matchup got physical in the third when Finland’s Sami Lepisto caught Sweden’s Mikael Backlund with a questionable high hit just inside Sweden’s blue line with a little over nine minutes to play. Lepisto was assessed a minor penalty for roughing, while Backlund received treatment on the Swedish bench.
“It was a shoulder hit to the head, or towards the nose,” Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said. “I know he was bleeding a little bit (from) his nose.”
Sweden led 1-0 after two periods. Stralman, a defenseman for the Tampa Bay Lightning, put a backhand feed from Sedin past Rask at 9:57 of the middle period.
Finland’s Patrik Laine had a strong scoring opportunity in the final minute of the second, but Lundqvist was able to get his glove on Laine’s one-timer.
Every single Finnish player had a shot on goal. Laine, a first-round pick by the Winnipeg Jets, led the way with five.
“We had many good scoring chances, but he was playing awesome in the net,” Laine said. Sweden concludes the preliminary round on Wednesday against Team North America, and Finland meets Russia on Thursday.