Sundin scores, Tellqvist waits
By LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun
Mats Sundin rescued Team Sweden from its first World Cup scare, here in Stockholm.
Now it's Mikael Tellqvist's turn.
Tellqvist, a Maple Leafs goaltender, is expected to get the start today when the Swedes complete back-to-back home games in the tournament with a game against the Czech Republic. The Czechs are sure to give a better 60-minute effort than the Germans mustered at the Globen yesterday in losing 5-2 to Sweden.
With National Hockey League stars populating Cup rosters for the Czechs, it's the chance Tellqvist has been waiting for.
Entering the World Cup, Tellqvist had the inside track on being the first-string goalie for Sweden until the Czechs lit him up for four goals in the final exhibition tuneup.
It was enough to convince coach Hardy Nilsson that Tommy Salo, warts and all, was the better bet to get the start in Game 1.
Salo, still vilified in many circles for his gaffe against Belarus in the 2002 Olympics that torpedoed Sweden's medal hopes, let Daniel Kreutzer's 50-footer clank off his catcher in the second period, yesterday, cutting Sweden's lead to 4-2.
But Sundin brought the hammer of Thor down on the visitors, winning a key draw against Marcel Goc that led to a Fred Modin goal.
Sundin's incredible backhand goal at 1:59 of the second period had snapped a 1-1 tie and triggered a three-goal burst.
Tellqvist watched from the end of the bench as 12,133 fans at the Globen kicked their party into high gear. He saw the many flags and tracked The Wave as it went around and around the building, yearning to be on stage with Sundin, Peter Forsberg and the rest of his nation's best.
"As soon as I heard the national anthem, I got goose bumps," Tellqvist said. "We'll wait and see what the coaches decide for (today)."
The killer for Tellqvist in his past outing against the Czechs was a long shot that he played nonchalantly and it banked past him into the net. He got the hook right after from Nilsson.
"You can't afford mistakes at this level, but hopefully (the decision to start Salo in the opener) wasn't because of that," Tellqvist said.
No matter what transpires, the 23-year-old Tellqvist is the future of the national team and, he hopes, of the Leafs in the post-Ed Belfour era. Salo is retiring from the National Hockey League, as his choice of loud red-and-white pads from his MoDo club team indicated yesterday. His best three saves against the Germans were late in the third.
The Czechs will be the harder task for a goalie, as they are expected to bounce back after mailing in their opener to the Finns in a 4-0 loss.
Coach Vladimir Ruzicka went with a bigger defence in that game, but it's anticipated he'll go back to the Maple Leafs' Tomas Kaberle and the New York Islanders' Roman Hamrlik today to increase the club's offensive output.
"They were outshot, outplayed and outscored so it will really be tough for us to play against them," Tellqvist said.
Consecutive home games are an international hockey rarity, but the Swedes are hoping for a carbon copy effort today to go 2-0 in the European pool playoff.
"Most of our guys are from the NHL and we're used to back-to-back games," defenceman Mattias Norstrom said. "The Finns did an outstanding job coming out and playing a physical, North American style hockey and it paid off. But the Czechs have a lot of firepower and we have to respect them."