The Scandinavians did not have it all their own way against fiercely determined opponents who stayed in the game throughout. Their winner arrived in the 13th minute, when Jenni Asserholt converted what would be the match’s only goal.
Asserholt, who was a member of Sweden’s silver medal-winning side in 2006 and plays her club hockey for Linkopings, diverted home from close range to secure a vital early victory.
Nana Fujimoto made 22 saves for outsiders Japan, who were making their first Olympic appearance since hosting the 1998 games in Nagano.
Swedish netminder Valentina Wallner’s 19 saves secured the shutout for her side. The Swedes hope to erase the memories of the heartache they experienced at Vancouver 2010, when they lost the bronze medal match 3-2 to rivals Finland in overtime.
Third-period rout gives Russia perfect start
In the day’s other Group B match, a spectacular third period saw Russia came back from a goal down to get off to the perfect start in the women’s ice hockey tournament, earning a 4-1 win over Germany in the Shayba Arena.
After a cagey first period, the hosts were rocked six minutes into the second when Franziska Busch opened the scoring for the Germans.
In a remarkable spell at the beginning of the third period, Iya Gavrilova equalised in the 46th minute before Olga Sosina’s deflected effort and Yekaterina Smolentseva’s two-on-one finish shot the Russians clear in the 48th and 49th minutes respectively.
Sosina’s second, in the 52nd minute, confirmed a deserved victory in which Russia outshot their opponents 37-15 in front of a thrilled local crowd of 5,048.
It was a formidable opening performance from the home side, which is seeking to at least improve on its disappointing first round exit in Vancouver four years ago.
The result ensures that Russia top Group B, with Japan their next opponents on Tuesday. That match will follow Germany’s second fixture, against Sweden.