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Sweden wakes up, stops embarrassing itself, wins World Cup group

Team Sweden won its World Cup group even though it lost its game.
Team Sweden won its World Cup group even though it lost its game.

TORONTO – It was an all-out blitz from Team North America.

Auston Matthews scored 30 seconds into the game. Johnny Gaudreau earned a penalty shot 26 seconds later, sailing it wide. Then Vincent Trocheck scored one minute and five seconds after Matthews.

Sweden was down 2-0. Sweden was on its heels, in a World Cup of Hockey game from which it needed to take at least a point, lest things get rather complicated regarding their place in the semifinals.

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The message on the Swedish bench after being hit with the hockey equivalent of a high-voltage taser?

“Wake the [expletive] up,” said defenseman Erik Karlsson.

“Those first two minutes were probably the most embarrassing [thing] that I’ve ever been a part of on a team. They did it all. They had three breakaways, a penalty shot, penalty call with them against us, goal in the net, two goals in the net. It gave us a kind of a slap in the face.”

At 8:24 of the first period, Sweden stirred on their pillows, as Filip Forsberg cut the lead. After Johnny Gaudreau’s breakaway goal made it 3-1 for North America, Nicklas Backstrom scored at 13:57 to again cut the lead.

“You start to analyze a little bit. OK, where is this going?” said goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “You know one shift, one save, one goal can change everything.”

Sweden had to wait until 6:30 into the third period for that game-changer: Patrik Berglund, added to the team in the exhibition schedule due to injury, scored from Karlsson to tie the game at 3-3. Nathan MacKinnon’s goal in overtime won the game for North America, but Sweden did what they needed to do: Secured their fifth point in the standings, and won Group B.

And it wasn’t easy.

“The speed they showed in the first 20 minutes caught us off-guard,” said Lundqvist. “We probably had some luggage left from last night [against Finland]. But we responded in a big way.”

The response came against a North American team that was blazing fast and getting chances, as Sweden did all it could to match that pace.

“We had no choice. We had to,” said Karlsson. “Otherwise it was going to be a disaster. How: It’s hard. They gave us a slap in the face right away. We had two options: Either we fold and we let them win or we realize that we have to step up and evolve our game and accept the challenge that they gave us. I think that’s what we did.”

With the group win, Sweden advances to the semifinals and, barring a Canada loss to Team Europe on Wednesday night, avoids the tournament host and favorite until the best two-out-of-three World Cup of Hockey final.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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