Ghostbuster Swedes bag Belarus win

Reigning Olympic champions Sweden saw off the challenge of Belarus on Friday, eight years on from a defeat at the hands of the same opponents that still haunts the men in blue and yellow.

Daniel Alfredsson scored two goals and Daniel Sedin finished with a goal and an assist as defending champion Sweden beat Belarus 4-2 at the Vancouver Olympics on Friday.

Johan Franzén also scored for Sweden who moved to 2-0 in Group C of the preliminary round while Belarus dropped to 0-2.

“We stayed poised and we finished them off well down the stretch,” said Alfredsson whose first goal came on the powerplay for the Swedes who now have a 2-1 edge in three Olympic meetings between the countries.

He added his second with just 11 seconds left in the game, taking a pass from Sedin’s twin brother Henrik and beating Belarus goalie Andrei Mezin with a low shot.

The last time Sweden and Belarus met was in 2002 at the Salt Lake Games and Belarus engineered a shock upset thanks to one of the most bizarre winning goals in the history of the tournament.

With 2:43 remaining in a tied quarter-final, Belarus defenceman Vladimir Kopat fired a 20-metre slap shot at Swedish goaltender Tommy Salo.

The puck hit Salo in the facemask, deflected in the air and bounced off the Salo’s back into the open net.

Belarus did their best to try and repeat their 2002 heroics Friday and they kept the game close thanks to a pair of goals by Dmitri Meleshko.

Meleshko beat Henrik Lundqvist on a rebound for his second goal to cut the Swedes lead to 3-2.

His first came on a scramble in front of the Swedish net and was originally awarded to Aleksandr Kulakov before the game officials changed it.

Just 30 seconds after Meleshko’s second goal, Belarus had a chance to tie it but forward Kostantin Zakharov rang a shot off the post.

Defenceman Nicklas Lidström said the Swedes can play better.

“I think we have to tighten up defensively,” Lidström said.

Sweden now has two wins in Group C with their next match set for Sunday against rival Finland who they beat in the gold medal game in the 2006 Turin Olympics.

“It should be a good game, high tempo,” said Alfredsson.

Sweden beat Germany 2-0 in their first game in the Vancouver tournament as Lundqvist recorded his first Olympic shutout.

Lundqvist made 19 saves Friday for the Swedes who came out quickly two goals in a 2:24 span in the first period.

Ruslan Salei helped anchor the Belarus blueline for the second straight game. He has played just two games this year for the Colorado Avalanche but he returned to the ice for the Olympics and is averaging over 19 minutes of playing time a game in Vancouver.

“We got our confidence back in the last five minutes with that goal,” Salei said. “It is important for a group of guys competing at this level for the first time and hopefully it will help us play better.”

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Swedish ice hockey team faces strong Russia

The Swedes face a tough test in Saturday's ice hockey world championships semi-final against 2012 winners Russia, who are seeking redemption for their Sochi Olympic flop.

Swedish ice hockey team faces strong Russia
Sweden's Gustav Nyquist goes up against Belarus in the qualifying rounds. Photo: TT

The Swedish squad came to Minsk with ten players who had never played in the world championship before. The team struggled throughout the preliminary round before winning a place in the last four by edging out hosts Belarus 3-2.

This hard-fought win seems to have boosted the Swedes' confidence ahead of the dangerous semi-final confrontation with the Russians.

"They have those two superstars of course, but also a great team," Swede Gustav Nyquist, a Detroit Red Wings right winger, said of Russians Alexander Ovechkin and Yevgeny Malkin.

"But we're good too and have shown what we can do. It'll be a tight game. The results in the quarter-finals goes to show that any team of the four remaining can win this."

Russia, the only team with a perfect record at the event, look favourites to win with strong performances in all areas of the ice, including defence. The team has allowed just seven goals in eight matches.