Early on in its game against Sweden on Tuesday night, Russia played hardball.
During shifts, they head-hunted for Swedes. After shifts, they offered an occasional forearm shiver. Its ego damaged in an opening loss to Canada, Russia tried its best to get under Sweden's skin.
Sweden refused to back down.
"It was a big mental game against these guys," Swedish forward Patrick Cehlin said. "We tried to get under their skin as well."
Sweden managed to do that and shut out Russia, 2-0, before a jam-packed crowd at Dwyer Arena. It scored two goals early and rode goalie Robin Lehner (30 saves) the rest of the way.
Following an embarrassing three-goal loss to Canada in the opener, Russia played with a chip on its shoulder. Bad blood caught on fast. Maxim Kitsyn flipped one Swede over the Russian bench two shifts in. Stanislav Bocharov rag-dolled another Swede to the ice when an official wasn't looking.
Sweden kept its composure and scored a pair of goals in the first period to puncture Russia's swagger.
First, Anton Lander tucked away a puck in front of the net. Then, with 5:49 to go in the first, the Swedes caught Russia napping. Calle Jarnkrok pushed the puck up ice, teammate Jesper Fasth sneaked behind a plodding Russian defender and the two Swedes manufactured an instant fast break.
Jarnkrok tapped the puck to Fasth, who slammed it home.
"I don't think any team can win by playing too scruff with this team," Sweden coach Roger Ronnberg said of Russia. "They have so many guys that are tough. But for the first 50 minutes, we followed our playbook."
Sweden's Lehner, of the AHLs Binghamton Senators, stepped up when it mattered most.
Russia broke loose on a short-handed, odd-man rush with 15 minutes to go but Lehner sprawled out to stone Anton Burdasov. Three minutes later, Russia's Nikita Dvurechenski made the blooper reel, whiffing on a wide-open net.
Lehner relied on an active glove all night. When he was named Sweden's player of the game afterward and skated to the middle of the ice, the Russian players were motionless along the blue line.
In short, Lehner put a muzzle on the trash-talking. As Cehlin said, he showed the world how good he is.
And in the process, Sweden proved it's not merely a finesse team. On their trek to a medal, the Swedes won't be bullied.
"We showed that we'll stand up for each other," Cehlin said, "that we'll stand up physically."