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Sweden Tops Finland to Reach Gold Medal Game

by Photo of Gil Santos

Sweden narrowly defeats rival Finland to advance to their third gold medal game in six Olympics.

Sweden Tops Finland to Reach Gold Medal Game

Erik Karlsson's power play goal in the second period was the difference as Sweden defeated Finland, 2-1, to advance to the Olympic men's hockey final. Karlsson (Ottawa Senators) recorded his fourth tally of the Olympics and is now tied with USA's Phil Kessel in points with eight. 

Sweden's goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers) was a brick wall like he has been all tournament. He gave up a fluky goal and stopping 25 of 26 shots. In five games, Lundqvist has gaudy numbers with a 95.12% save percentage and a 1.20 goals against as average per 60 minutes. Lundqvist has allowed only 6 goals in the entire Olympics.

Finland was unfortunately without their top goaltender Tukka Rask (Boston Bruins) due to illness. Dallas Stars' Kari Lehtonen stepped in for the ill Rask and did a solid job, turning away 23 of 25 shots. But it wasn't enough as Finland were stymied by the Swedish defense. 

The Swedes were exceptional defensively, especially on the penalty kill. Sweden killed all four of Finland's penalties, including a 5-on-3 in the opening period. In addition, they did a great job clogging up the neutral zone, forcing Finland to turn the puck over or dump it into the offensive zone. They did not allow Finland to sustain much pressure offensively at even strength. 

Moreover, Sweden was dominant in the face-off, where they won almost 60% of the time. Nicklas Backstrom (Washington Captials) was especially remarkable, winning 84% of his face-offs. 

Finland took the early lead in the second period with a rare soft goal let in by Lundqvist. After the referees waved off icing, Finland's Olli Jokinen (Winnipeg Jets) hustled down the ice and shot the puck on net from a bad angle. It somehow leaked behind Lundqvist past the goal line for the opening score of the game. 

The goal seemed to wake the Swedes up as they were able to tie the game at 1-1 five minutes later. Following a great Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks) takeaway, the Swedes were able to quickly pass it around and Jonathan Ericsson (Detroit Red Wings) found Loui Eriksson (Bruins) at the side of the net, who buried the tying goal. 

Sweden, which boasted the top power play unit of the Olympics coming into the game, capitalized on their second man advantage of the match. It turned out to be the game winning goal as Karlsson one-timed a hard slap shot that squeezed through Lehtonen's arm to make it 2-1. 

Sweden has now won two of their last three meetings vs. Finland, and this will be Sweden's third gold medal game appearance since 1994. The last two times they have appeared in the gold medal game, they won.

Sweden will await the winner of the second semi-final game between the U.S. and Canada while Finland will look to add their sixth Olympic medal in the bronze medal game. 

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