The score was 4-2 in the end, but it could have been much, much worse for the Swedes. A day after Jonas Hiller nearly stole a victory from Canada, Belarusian goaltender Andrei Mezin almost pulled off another big upset over Sweden. In 2002, Belarus ended a hopeful medal run for Sweden in the quarterfinals and for a short period of time on Friday it looked as if they might do it again. Yet despite a near masterful effort in goal, Belarus was never able to pull close the gap.
Sweden pulled off to an early 2-0 lead in the first period behind goals by Daniel Sedin and Daniel Alfredsson, and it looked as though Sweden would be able to easily skate through another round robin victory. Yet Belarus came out with a much more spirited effort in the in the second period and while the stats were certainly in Sweden's favor (14-6 shots on goal), the actual play on ice was evening up considerably.
A Johan Franzen goal opened up the lead to 3-0, but Dzmitry Maleshka would get Belarus on board late in the second with a big power play goal. Sweden was determined to not let Belarus back into the game, pounding the net with 17 shots in the third period. Yet Mezin would make several highlight-reel saves, giving his team the chance at a comeback and a momentous upset. With Maleshka would score once again midway through the third, it looked as though the Belarusians might actually be able to pull it off and at least tie the game.
Yet Jonas Gustavsson would keep Belarus out of the net for the rest of the game, and Alfredsson would ice the win for Sweden with a final-minute goal.
It was a tough lesson for the Swedes, who are attempting to defend their gold medal against what many consider to be superior teams in Canada and Russia (who lost last night in overtime to Slovakia). But if Sweden hopes to repeat, they'll have to find a way to find better scoring and a much more balanced overall attack, hard as it may seem for a team that has the Sedin twins, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Peter Forsberg.
Sweden plays Finland next, at 12:00 am later Sunday night, Monday morning, to end round robin play.