TURIN, Italy - Peter Forsberg is back. Not surprisingly, so is Sweden.
Despite being eased into the lineup because of a slow-healing groin problem, Forsberg set up two goals in his first game of the Olympic men’s hockey tournament, helping the Swedes rebound from a shutout loss with an easy 6-1 victory over Latvia on Saturday.
“Pretty good for not playing for 3½ weeks,” Forsberg said with a smile.
He assisted on Sweden’s first and fourth goals, said he played around 15 minutes and joked that his line, the fourth, “got moved up to second, actually.” He added that “it felt very weird” not being on the power play.
That could change as early as Sunday, when the Swedes (2-1) play the U.S. in a game likely to affect seeding for the quarterfinals.
Latvia (0-2-1) is making its tie against the Americans look more and more like a fluke. Since then, the Latvians allowed four first-period goals in a 6-3 loss to Slovakia and five almost halfway through this game. It was 6-0 when Maris Ziedins beat Henriq Lundqvist midway through the final period for Latvia’s lone goal.
Samuel Pahlsson and P.J. Axelsson were the beneficiaries of Forsberg’s assists. Daniel Alfredsson scored twice, and Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg also scored for Sweden.
The Swedes broke the game open with four goals over the first eight minutes of the second period, two coming 18 seconds apart.
Forsberg, the hero of Sweden’s 1994 gold medal victory and part of the 1998 team, missed his last eight games with the Philadelphia Flyers and first two of the Olympics due to his injury. After skating alone Thursday and practicing Friday, he felt so comfortable Saturday that he sometimes hopped the boards to the bench instead of using the door.
During the second-period barrage, Forsberg’s great stickwork set Axelsson up with plenty of room for his goal.
“Every time he stepped on the ice, we knew it,” Ziedins said.
Ziedens said he thought Forsberg played a bit passively. Forsberg said once the game became lopsided “there was no need for me to go out and run people.”
Could he have?
“First period, I got a little tired. Other than that, I felt good,” said Forsberg, who now has 12 assists and three goals in 13 career Olympic games.
Lundqvist bounced back following a 5-0 loss to Russia, although it helped that he saw only two shots in the first period and 14 for the game.
Naumovs replaced Arturs Irbe after his two starts and stopped 34 of 40 shots.
Russia 1, Kazakhstan 0
Evgeni Nabokov made 24 saves in his second straight shutout and Alexander Kharitonov snapped a scoreless tie midway through the second period in Russia’s 1-0 victory over Kazakhstan in men’s hockey on Saturday morning.
Nabokov, who was born in Kazakhstan but grew up in Russia, beat Sweden 5-0 on Thursday in his first Group B matchup. He has stopped all 48 shots he’s faced in the tournament.
Nabokov played one international game for Kazakhstan when he was 18, which made him ineligible to play for Russia in the 2002 Olympics. He was cleared to join Team Russia two years ago after receiving an exception to international hockey’s eligibility rules.
“It’s kind of weird, because most of those guys I grew up with, and some of them were my best friends,” Nabokov said of facing Kazakhstan.
Kharitonov was the only Russian player to solve Vitali Yeremeyev, who made 49 saves in a brilliant performance. The only goal came when Kharitonov got the rebound of Maxim Sushinsky’s shot, carried the puck behind the net and stuffed it inside the right post before Yeremeyev could dive back and grab it.
Yeremeyev, who briefly played for the New York Rangers several years ago, stopped 15 shots in the first period and 22 in the second.
“We got a great game from our goalie, but so did they,” said Kazakhstan’s Nik Antropov, who plays for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. “They’re a hard team to beat because they play tough defense. We tried to a lot of things, but it was hard to get up the ice and set up.”
Nabokov, who plays for the San Jose Sharks, made 17 saves through two periods. He was severely tested several times early in the third when Kazakhstan (0-3) pressed for the tying goal. Antropov had the best chance, but his in-close drive was smothered.
The lead was tenuous because Russia (2-1) couldn’t capitalize on any of its 13 power plays — including four two-man advantages in the second period.
“We’ve got to find a way to score more goals,” Nabokov said. “We have to play a complete game. I don’t think we can get through another game like this.”
The game was physical from the start and turned chippy in the second period as pushes, shoves and even cross-checks were delivered after whistles.