Even with NHL stars, the result was strikingly similar as the new-era Olympic hockey tournament premiered: Peter Forsberg had Sweden flying, and the United States fell short again.
Forsberg set up two goals by Daniel Alfredsson as Sweden began defense of its championship Friday with a 4-2 victory over the United States in the first Olympic game featuring mostly NHL players.
As a 20-year-old at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, Forsberg scored the shootout goal that gave Sweden its first gold medal. The Colorado Avalanche center went on to win NHL top rookie honors in '95, one season before Alfredsson did the same with the Ottawa Senators.
The United States, meanwhile, hopes to make its fans forget a worst-ever eighth-place finish four years ago a showing that might have led to the switch to the new "dream team" format.
While the outcome helped Sweden make a statement to those who felt the NHL-superstar-filled American and Canadian teams were locks to meet in the gold-medal game, it might end up being no factor in the championship chase.
All eight teams in this round-robin phase will advance to the quarterfinals after three games. They're merely playing for higher seeds going into the single-elimination playoff round.
Tommy Salo of the Islanders made 29 saves to win the battle of New York, outplaying renowned Rangers goaltender Mike Richter. Mats Sundin celebrated his 27th birthday with a goal and Patric Kjellberg also scored for Sweden.
Chris Chelios and Mike Modano scored for the Americans, who were accorded co-favorite status based on their 1996 World Cup victory over Canada.
A colorful and enthusiastic crowd including Swedes with their faces painted blue and gold, and shirtless American men with red letters spelling "USA" on their chests got to witness exciting hockey that looked little like the defense-first game that has bogged down the NHL this season.
The first period was especially fast-paced, with the goalies trading outstanding saves until the teams broke loose for three goals in a 1:40 span.
Chelios scored on a slap shot from the right point at 11:10 before Alfredsson's power-play goal, on a blind drop-back pass by Forsberg, tied it at 12:26. Just 24 seconds later, Modano's turn-around, 30-foot slapper put the United States back ahead.
Sweden made it 2-2 at 1:50 of the second period as Kjellberg one of the game's five non-NHLers, all from Sweden scored at the end of a two-on-one break with Mikael Renberg.
The Swedes went up 3-2 at 11:33 of the second, with Forsberg and Alfredsson striking again.
Forsberg fought through Mathieu Schneider's check, skated around Modano and made a pass that deflected off the side of the net and into the crease. Alfredsson backhanded the puck between Richter's pads as Schneider shoved him to the ice.
Sundin capped the scoring with 2:56 to play.
Written by Mike Nadel AP Sports Writer
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