WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Canada got hit by a Swedish torpedo - and the question now is whether the Olympic hockey favorites can repair the damage in time to make a run at the gold medal they haven't won in 50 years.
Sweden ran its innovative "torpedo" system to perfection against the confused, out-of-sync Canadians as Mats Sundin beat Toronto teammate Curtis Joseph for two goals in a 5-2 victory Friday.
The game turned with Sweden scoring four goals in the final 13:54 of the second period, a stretch in which goalie Tommy Salo faced only one shot.
"We worked the torpedo, and it worked pretty good," said Niklas Sundstrom, who scored a goal and set up another as Sweden overwhelmed Canada with its speed and familiarity with the oversized Olympic ice. "We're used to playing on the big ice. Everybody knows it's a different game on the big ice."
The victory came so easy, it was almost as if the Swedes were playing a different game - which, of course, they were. They switched defensemen one at a time with certain lines rather than in pairs, as in the classic North American style, and used them primarily as another forward to create offense.
"I call it big ice hockey," Sweden coach Hardy Nilsson said. "We want to create a lot of ice to play on, create a lot of space and use it. ... I'm proud to be part of a team that could beat such a team as that."
This was supposed to be Canada's best team ever - big and mobile, with an All-Star lineup assembled by Wayne Gretzky and led by Mario Lemieux in his first Olympic appearance. Instead, the Canadians' debut, while not fatal to their gold medal hopes, was a startling reminder that Canada's national nightmare - their last gold medal was in 1952 - may not be over.
"It was embarrassing," Canada forward Paul Kariya said.
Canada could lose all three games in pool play and still win the gold medal. But this certainly isn't the way coach Pat Quinn's team wanted to start, unable to slow down Sweden's fast-break offense or to get anything going against Salo, the Edmonton goalie who stopped 33 of 35 shots.
"We've got to take this as a lesson," Quinn said. "We got hammered. If we think we can play that way, we'll be going home Thursday morning."
Sweden overcame Rob Blake's slap-shot goal only 2:37 into the game, gradually swinging the momentum and flow its way on a surface that is 13 1/2 feet wider than the standard NHL rink.
Sundin got Sweden going with what would prove to be the signature play of the game, a long pass up ice to a forward who had streaked behind the Canada defense - this time, on a breakout pass by Daniel Alfredsson. Sundin had little trouble beating Joseph with a wrist shot at 5:30 of the first period.
"I was glad he had the first chance, because he usually scores," Nilsson said.
Sundstrom started Sweden's huge second period, taking Michael Nylander's pass from the right circle to beat Joseph with a shot that deflected slightly off the post at 6:06. Quinn has not yet revealed his goaltending rotation, but hinted Joseph will stay in goal Sunday against Germany.
"I wouldn't read much into this," Canada forward Theo Fleury said. "It's great for us, actually, because it makes us an underdog, and that's what we like."
Quinn didn't think it was too great. He said his defensemen did too much standing around, allowing the Swedish forwards to streak by them while failing to create the kind of offensive chances the Swedish defensemen did.
"You have to ask them to do the kind of work they don't do in the NHL," Quinn said. "If they don't do it, we're not going to win."
Sundin beat Joseph again, this time with a long slap shot midway through the second period, to make it 3-1 and seemingly take the heart out of Canada, which barely showed a pulse for the rest of the period.
Kenny Jonsson scored just over a minute later, and Ulf Dahlen added a goal at 15:58.
"In the second period, we started standing around and watching - and they were quite good," Quinn said.
Canada had a brief flurry in the third period when Eric Brewer scored and Eric Lindros followed less than a minute later by putting the puck past a sprawling Salo, who also was in net for Sweden's 1994 gold-medal victory over Canada. But the Lindros goal was waved off because Michael Peca ran over Salo in the crease.
"There's two more games before the real tournament starts," said Lemieux, who was scoreless with one shot in his Olympic debut. "We still have time to get it together."
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