GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Sweden opened Olympic play with a 4-0 win over Norway on Thursday, even after leaving highly rated young defenseman Rasmus Dahlin on the bench as a healthy scratch.
Linus Omark finished with three assists, including a backhand, no-look pass to set up Par Lindholm’s opening goal. Anton Lander made it 2-0 as Sweden dominated the first period and largely cruised from there. Goaltender Viktor Fasth faced 17 shots for the first shutout of the men’s Olympic tournament.
Coach Rikard Gronborg explained that Dahlin is one of eight defenseman and the team can only dress seven.
“He’s a tremendous hockey player,” Gronborg said. “But he’s also 17 years old. For him to be here is an unbelievable achievement. At the same time, I think he’s good enough to be here. Otherwise we wouldn’t pick him.”
Dahlin has drawn rave reviews from teammates on Sweden and Frolunda, his Swedish Hockey League club and comparisons to Norris Trophy-winning Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. With Dahlin scratched, Sweden dressed defensemen Erik Gustaffson, Jonas Ahnelov, Staffan Kronwall, Simon Bertilsson, Mikael Wikstrand, Johan Fransson and Patrik Hersley.
“The guys we have right now that played tonight are guys that we use in different situations,” Gronborg said. “I’m talking mainly special teams and stuff like that. We want to give them a chance. I think Rasmus is ready to go when things need to be changed or someone gets hurt.”
The Norwegians recorded just one shot in the first, but pushed back in the second. Early in the third, a Norwegian goal was disallowed on review for goaltender interference before Sweden sealed the win with two goals in quick succession. Dennis Everberg made it 3-0 to Sweden with his first touch off the bench off a pass from Omark and then Mikael Wikstrand scored the fourth 22 seconds later, also off an Omark pass.
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This story has been updated to correct the name of the Swedish club to Frolunda.