Sweden holds off Belarus, Czechs top Latvia

While Canada awaits a showdown with the U.S. on Sunday, Sweden reminded everyone they are still the defending Olympic champions.

Daniel Alfredsson had two goals to lead Sweden past Belarus 4-2 at Canada Hockey Place Friday. Dmitry Meleshko scored twice in a losing effort for Belarus, who trailed by three with 5:20 to play in the second.

“We stayed poised and we finished them off well down the stretch,” Alfredsson told TSN after his team improved to 2-0 in group C play.

Meleshko’s goal at 11:33 of the third brought Belarus to within one, despite being dominated for the first 40 minutes.

Alfredsson provided the insurance goal with 11 seconds left in the third, connecting with the Sedin brothers for his second goal of the game.

Johan Franzen also scored, while Daniel Sedin had one goal and one assist and his brother Henrik added a pair of assists for the reigning gold medallists.

“We won the game, that’s all that matters,” said Daniel Sedin. “Everyone thinks it’s easy to win games in this kind of tournament, but it’s really tough.”

Goaltender Andrei Mezin made 34 saves for Belarus, who dropped to 0-2 in preliminary-round action.

Swedish goalie Jonas Gustavsson was shaky against a weak Belarus opponent.

Midway through the third, Gustavsson kicked a rebound directly to Meleshko for his second goal of the game, cutting Sweden’s lead to 3-2.

The netminder got the start after Sweden decided to give Henrik Lundqvist a day off before their game on Sunday against Finland. Lundqvist opened the Games with his first career Olympic shutout in a 2-0 win over Germany.

The Swedes were 1-for-4 on the power play, while Belarus scored once in two tries with the man advantage. Sweden outshot Belarus 38-19.

Belarus will play Germany on Sunday, also looking for its first victory of the tournament.

Czechs stay undefeated

Tomas Kaberle had a goal and an assist, Marek Zidlicky added three assists, and the Czech Republic defeated Latvia 5-2 in men’s group B action Friday.

The Czechs improved to 2-0 in preliminary-round play, behind goals from Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Elias, Tomas Plekanec, and David Krejci. Elias also added an assist.

Girts Ankipans and Kristaps Sotnieks each scored for Latvia, who dropped to to 0-2 in group play. Edgars Masalskis made 34 saves in the loss.

The Czechs were powered by three goals within the game’s first five minutes, before Kaberle extended the lead to four at 6:33 of the second period on the power play. Lativa was outshot 16-4 by the Czechs in the first.

Sotnieks goal at 15:30 of the second came as he exited the box after serving two consecutive penalties. Ankipans cut the lead to 4-2, scoring on the power play with 93 seconds left in the second.

Latvia spent too much time in the box to challenge the Czechs, racking up 26 penalty minutes. The Czechs were 2-for-9 on the power play, while Lativa was 1-for-5.

Elias would add an empty netter with 18 seconds left to play.

Tomas Vokoun made 16 saves for the Czechs, who now look ahead to a big match Sunday against Russia.

Latvia plays Slovakia Sunday.