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Team Sweden

Henrik Lundqvist back on top of his game

Team Sweden goalie makes 36 saves in return from illness, shuts out Team Finland

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

TORONTO -- Henrik Lundqvist turned and looked for the puck after Mikael Granlund's shot midway through the third period. He couldn't find it. There's a reason for that.

The puck was in front of Lundqvist, right in front of him, just as it was all game long.

Lundqvist stopped everything Tuesday, even the shots he didn't think he had. It was that kind of afternoon for Team Sweden's No. 1 goalie, the kind that leads to dazzling performances like he has delivered time and time again for his national team and the New York Rangers.

After missing Team Sweden's first game of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 because he was ill, Lundqvist made 36 saves in a 2-0 win against Team Finland in the second game of the preliminary round for both teams.

"That's why he's one of the top goalies in the world," Team Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said.

Lundqvist wants the chance to show it again Wednesday, when Team Sweden plays Team North America in the final preliminary round game for both teams (3 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVA Sports).

Team Sweden will clinch a spot in the semifinals by earning at least one point against Team North America. Even if it doesn't get it, Team Sweden can still clinch if Team Finland gets at least a point against Team Russia on Thursday.

Lundqvist felt so good Tuesday that he has no doubt he'll be ready to go again Wednesday. Gronborg wouldn't confirm Lundqvist as the starter against Team North America, but if Team Sweden's No. 1 goalie feels ready to go, it'll be a shock if the coach doesn't play him.

Jacob Markstrom made 27 saves in a 2-1 win against Team Russia on Sunday.

Video: FIN@SWE: Lundqvist discusses shutout win over Finland

"Physically, I felt really good," Lundqvist said. "I walked out to the game and had a lot more energy [Tuesday] than I had a couple of days ago. That alone gives you more confidence knowing that you're good.

"I felt like in the first period I was a little bit all over the place, but it helped having really good structure in front of me."

Even though Lundqvist felt he was fighting his focus a bit, trying to get himself together, his teammates had no idea. They saw the saves he was making, 11 in all in the first 20 minutes, and a general calmness started to spread through the team.

Lundqvist made a point-blank save with his stick on Teuvo Teravainen at 4:56, a blocker save on Patrik Laine's shot off the rush at 14:25, and another difficult save on Leo Komarov's one-timer from a trailing position between the circles at 18:31.

"You relax," Team Sweden forward Daniel Sedin said. "You know you can make a mistake and he's going to be there for you. That feeling is something. It's tough to explain, but you can feel it. You can, I don't want to say make a chance or a guessing play, but you can throw pucks out there and if you make a mistake he's going to be there. It's a calming effect on everyone."

Lundqvist felt himself calm down in the second period, when he made 12 saves, starting with a sharp glove save on Sebastian Aho's shot off the rush at 1:04. Anton Stralman scored at 9:57 to give Team Sweden a 1-0 lead.

Video: FIN@SWE: Lundqvist stones Teravainen on the doorstep

Lundqvist began preserving the lead with a flailing glove save on Valtteri Filppula's shot from the left circle at 11:35. He stopped a wrist shot from Joonas Donskoi off a faceoff win at 17:13, and seven seconds later gloved Sami Lepisto's shot through traffic from the left point.

He made arguably his best save of the game with 40.2 seconds remaining, when he threw up his glove and caught Laine's one-timer from the left circle during Team Finland's power play.

It was more of the same in the third.

Lundqvist gobbled up another one of Laine's one-timers at 14 seconds. Eight saves later, Granlund had a glorious chance coming in from the left side, but Lundqvist made the save before turning around to see if the puck had gotten behind him.

Nope. Nothing got behind him. He made 13 saves in the third period.

"He was just awesome out there," Team Sweden forward Loui Eriksson said. "He looked like the Hank we've seen before."

Make no mistake, Lundqvist needed this performance for selfish reasons too. It hasn't been the easiest ride for him the past 16 days.

Lundqvist showed up in training camp on Sept. 4 with a rib injury, a result of getting hit in a tender area with a shot during a pre-camp workout. He allowed eight goals on 36 shots (.778 save percentage) in two pretournament games. Then he fell ill and couldn't play against Team Russia in the tournament opener Sunday.

This performance answered some questions for him. It gave him some piece of mind.

"Sometimes you take a step back and sometimes you take two in the right direction," Lundqvist said. "Obviously, it was an important game for me. These are important games, so you can't just go out there and try to feel good and start building your game. It's too late for that. I had two games to do that, and now it's for real."

It'll be for real again in less than 24 hours. Lundqvist is ready for an encore.

"He gives a certain kind of stability, I would say," Gronborg said. "He's the last post and he's a very good last post. I think he gives us stability from the top to the bottom of our lineup, and we as coaches, we know we can count on him."

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