Sweden beats Finland to advance to men’s hockey final
Erik Karlsson scores winner for Swedes
Sweden is in the gold medal game — again.
For the third time in the past six Olympics, Sweden has advanced to the gold medal game of the men’s hockey tournament at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
It is worth noting, when Sweden makes it to the final, it wins gold. Sweden will now play Canada, which defeated the U.S. 1-0 in the later semifinal game.
That was the case in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway and also in 2006 in Turin, Italy.
Despite playing in the tournament without injured Henrik Sedin, Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg, the Swedes had enough scoring and team defence to defeat its rivals, Finland, 2-1 in an otherwise lacklustre semifinal encounter.
With a trip to the gold medal on the line, both teams played as though it was an NHL pre-season game.
“It was more like a chess match than the intense battle we all expected it would be,” Sweden captain
Daniel Alfredsson told Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman. “I thought from the second period on we played very well.”
Even in the third period, trailing by only a goal, there was no serious push by the Finns.
The innocence of youth
Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson scored the game-winning goal and is thrilled now to get the chance to play for gold.
“It is a special feeling,” Karlsson told Friedman. “Before this game there were a lot of emotions and I think we have a good group of guys, many of whom have been here before. We have a younger group, including myself, that doesn’t really realize what is at stake and maybe that’s a good thing. From puck drop to the end I think we played really well today.”
Go Canada Go
With a trip to the final guaranteed, Alfredsson said he would be cheering for Team Canada in the other semifinal.
“The two teams are very evenly matched,” Alfredsson said. “I will be pulling for Canada since I played there most of my NHL career.”
The former Ottawa Senators captain will now get his wish.
Flu rocks Rask
Finnish goaltender Tuukka Rask was sidelined with the flu. Kari Lehtonen got the start instead and established quite early that he was capable of providing competent goaltending.
First period blahs
Given the importance of the game, it was startling to see the lack of emotion in the opening period. Alfredsson is right, it was almost like a game of chess, except with less physical contact. The one exception was a feud between the respective captains, Niklas Kronwall of Sweden and Teemu Selanne of Finland. They exchanged shoves, bumps and nasty words on a couple of occasions.
Finland’s Olli Jokinen chased down the puck deep in Sweden’s zone after icing was waved off and upon retrieving it, snapped it toward the Sweden net. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist must have thought icing was going to be called because he was casual in his attempt to stop the shot which dropped behind him into the net. After a long delay to review the play, Finland was awarded the 1-0 goal. Loui Eriksson of Sweden tied it four minutes later when he stuffed a puck past Lehtonen from the side of the goal.
With Jokinen in the penalty box for tripping, Karlsson drilled home a one-timer from the point to shoot Sweden into the lead. It was his fourth goal and eighth point in four games.
Leo the lion
He was a fourth-liner, but former Toronto Maple Leaf Leo Komarov was a physical force on every shift he played for the Finns. Given his team’s lack of emotion, it is surprising Finland coach Erkka Westerlund didn’t lean on him more. Komarov got under the skin of the Swedes midway through the third period when he drove to the net and gave Lundqvist a snow shower.
That winning feeling
— Henrik Lundqvist (@HLundqvist30) February 21, 2014