Sweden eased to a comfortable 7-3 victory over Kazakhstan as Gustav Nyquist’s hat-trick took him to the top of the goalscoring chart at this World Championship.
Nyquist had a power play goal, an equal strength marker and a short-handed strike to take his tally to five for the competition, one ahead of Finnish prodigy Patrick Laine.
The Kazakhs enjoyed lively support in Moscow, with their traveling fans augmented by a contingent of Russians hoping to see a medal rival stumble. That helped prompt a bright start from the outsider, but it wasn’t long before Sweden got on top.
Mikael Backlund’s third of the season opened the scoring in the 13th minute, firing in a shot from the top of the circle past the heavily screened Vitali Kolesnik.
Kazakhstan carved out a great chance to tie it up seconds later, but Nikita Ivanov couldn’t get a stick on Yevgeni Rymarev’s pass and the moment was lost. Then a quick line change caught out the Kazakhs and Linus Klasen doubled the lead with a thumping one-timer off a Nyquist feed.
Barely one minute later it was already 3-0 and the outcome of the game was all but decided. Adam Larsson got it, capitalizing on a turnover inside the Kazakh zone.
Larsson, who was also named Sweden’s best player of the game, saw signs that Sweden is getting its game together in this tournament.
“We didn’t start out well against Latvia, but I think we’ve taken steps in the right direction since then,” he said after the game. “But we can’t relax. We have to find a way to win the next three games to put ourselves in the best position for the play-offs.”
A Swedish penalty allowed Kazakhstan a brief flicker of hope right on the hooter when Dustin Boyd squeezed home a power play goal. That prompted the biggest cheer of the night, but in truth there was little sign that the spirit in Andrei Nazarov’s team could match the clinical skills available to Par Marts.
The middle stanza was one-way traffic, with Sweden dominating the shot count 18-3 and adding three more goals. Nyquist got two of them, converting a power play in the 25th minute to chase Kolesnik from the net before welcoming Pavel Poluektov to his first action of the competition with the 5-1 marker soon after.
Kazakhstan’s night was not destined to get any better when Nyquist took a penalty: even with Sweden’s main man sitting it out, the Tre Kronor added a shorthanded goal thanks to Alexander Wennberg. Poluektov finally had something to celebrate in the last minute of the second stanza when he stopped Linus Omark’s penalty shot but by that stage damage limitation was all his team could hope for.
Larsson added that Sweden was viewing this game like a knock-out battle as it tightened the screws on the opposition in a dominant middle session.
“We haven’t played great so far but I thought we created a lot of chances tonight, so we’re going in the right direction,” he added.
There were opportunities for Kazakhstan in the third: Oscar Fantenberg got caught in possession deep in his own zone, provoking a massive scramble on the slot before Viktor Fasth took control of the situation. Then Brandon Bochenski forced a smart pad save from the Swedish goalie as the Kazakhs probed on the power play.
That enterprise was rewarded in the 47th minute as Vladimir Markelov pulled a goal back with a slap shot from the point and when Roman Savchenko found the net to make it 6-3 Marts called his team to the bench for a time-out. Savchenko, who scored a spectacular goal from his own blue line against Switzerland, added another to his highlight reel: already off his feet he produced an acrobatic shot from the blue line to slide the puck beyond Fasth.
Johan Fransson admitted that the team was disappointed with the way it let Kazakhstan compete in the final stanza: “We made a couple of mistakes and they scored unnecessary goals. They were down, so they had to try something. We have to play a little bit better. We made a few bad decisions, but it’s hockey. It happens. We have to minimize the mistakes.”
Kazakhstan’s rally enlivened the atmosphere in the closing stages but inevitably that man Nyquist had the final word, scoring Sweden’s second short-handed goal of the night to complete his hat-trick.