By Frank Pingue
TORONTO (Reuters) – Surprise starter Jacob Markstrom stepped in admirably for Henrik Lundqvist as he backstopped Sweden to a 2-1 victory over Russia on Sunday in Group B action at the World Cup of Hockey.
Lundqvist, one of the finest goaltenders of his generation and a key reason why Sweden are expected to reach the gold medal game on Oct. 1, missed his team’s opener because he was ill, according to the team.
But Markstrom, who has competed in world championships and has won a gold medal on the international stage, was sharp as he kept a Russian team that have one of the most potent scoring attacks in the tournament off the board until Alex Ovechkin scored with 33 seconds left to play.
“You got to be ready every time you come to the rink,” said Markstrom, 26, who learned he was starting in net a couple hours before the game.
“You can’t just come in with a muffin and hot chocolate … you got to prepare yourself and get the body to be ready if it’s time to go.”
Sweden’s Gabriel Landeskog opened the scoring in the second period when his slapshot from just outside the faceoff circle glanced off the post and past the screened Russian goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky.
Victor Hedman doubled Sweden’s lead two minutes later when he came off the bench and immediately took a feed from Carl Hagelin and sent a one-timer into the net for what proved to be the game-winner.
Russia appeared to tie the game with seven seconds left in regulation but a video review showed the puck went into the Swedish net off Ovechkin’s hand.
Markstrom finished the game with 27 saves.
Group B action resumes later on Sunday when Team North America, a mix of U.S. and Canadian players under the age of 23, make their highly-anticipated debut against Finland.
Russia will play again on Monday against Team North America, while Sweden face Finland on Tuesday.
(Editing by Larry Fine)