Gustav Nyquist reinforced his status as a goal-scoring thoroughbred at this World Championship, picking up his sixth of the competition to break the deadlock in Sweden’s hard-fought battle against Norway.
The 26-year-old has had his critics in Detroit this year, but he is enjoying his second World Championship campaign where he is currently the leading goalscorer. He claimed a typically opportunist tally in the first minute of the middle stanza, snaffling a loose puck in the corner and surging along the goal line before forcing the disk home despite the attentions of Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.
“The goal today was a bit lucky,” Nyquist said. “I got a good bounce of the stick and it went in, but it’s good for my confidence to be scoring goals.”
It was a vital breakthrough for a Swedish offence that could not get into gear for much of a gritty encounter in Moscow. Norway, aware that victory here would bring it level with its Nordic neighbour on eight points, set up cautiously. Its disciplined hockey limited the Tre Kronor’s chances in a first period that never really took off, but that same defensive focus meant that Sweden’s Jacob Markstrom could enjoy a relatively quiet time between the piping for long periods.
“Maybe it wasn’t our best performance,” Nyquist added. “It was a tough game and they hung around and made it hard. But it’s another three points and that’s what we wanted.”
Nyquist’s goal gave Sweden the edge but did not open the floodgates. Indeed, had Markstrom not found the answer when Morten Ask attempted a repeat of Nyquist’s scoring play at the other end, Norway would have tied the game soon afterwards.
“I thought we played pretty well,” said Norway’s captain Tollefsen. “We had a tough start with a lot of box play but we battled through it and we were pretty good on the penalty kill.”
The Swedes’ best chances to extend the lead also involved Nyquist: he almost found Alexander Wennberg on the doorstep during a power play and then galloped on to a loose puck on the Norwegian blue line only for Haugen to close the door.
Sweden doubled its lead with a short-handed goal early in the third. Johan Fransson’s shot flashed wide but slammed back off the boards for the unmarked Mikael Backlund to gleefully pouch the rebound.
It didn’t take long for Norway to make it a one-goal game once again, though. Sweden had barely got back to full strength when Johannes Johannesen’s mishit shot was held up by Mathis Olimb on the slot and Mats Rosseli Olsen lifted the puck to the top shelf.
Suddenly the Swedes were in danger of losing further ground on the Czechs and the Russians at the top of Group A but a power play goal in the 52nd minute ensured Norway would have too much to do in the closing stages. Robert Rosen was the scorer, tucking away the rebound after Erik Gustaffson’s shot was padded away by Haugen.
Even so, Norway was ready to unleash a real storm in the dying seconds. First Mats Zuccarello came charging over the blue line, but Markstrom produced a glove save to win that duel and send Norway to the bench for a time-out. And the tactical rethink paid off: Jonas Holos shot from the blue line and Andreas Martinsen slammed his stick down on the slot to deflect the puck into the net to leave the Swedes with an an anxious 90 seconds to navigate.
Norway had the puck in the net once more, but Trygg’s celebrations were cut short when the officials indicated an infringement earlier in the play as the shots rained in on Markstrom’s net.
“We had a lot of shots and opportunities and we couldn’t take them, but the same is true of them,” Nyquist added. “They almost tied it up at the end and Markstrom made some big saves.”
The win lifts Sweden to 11 points, two better than third placed Russia before the host nation’s game against Switzerland on Saturday evening.
Sweden is also anticipating new arrivals to its roster in the coming days. Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky is set to arrive in Moscow on Sunday, in time to face-off against his Washington team-mates Alexander Ovehckin, Yevgeni Kuznetsov and Dmitri Orlov when the Tre Kronor play Russia on Tuesday.
Two defencemen are also set to head to the airport soon. Mattias Ekholm, a bronze medallist in Minsk in 2014, is waiting to be formally released by Nashville and should land in Moscow on Monday morning, while Dallas Stars’ John Klingberg is still awaiting his medical release.