Though it wasn’t the match-up of Vladimir Putin’s dreams, Sunday’s gold medal game was a rematch of sorts.
Defending gold medallists, Team Canada played Sweden for the gold on Sunday after edging out the U.S. in a nail-biting, fast-paced contest. Sweden beat rival Finland 2-1 in a sleepy and methodical semifinal.
Sunday’s game didn’t have the fiery underpinnings of bitter historic rivalry, but if you’re looking for something to hang your hat on, it was a chance for retribution for the Canadians who lost to Sweden in the 1994 Lillehammer Games in a sudden death shootout, on a memorable goal by Peter Forsberg.
Canada’s goal-starved forwards Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby each picked up a goal, their firsts of the tournament, giving Canada a 2-0 lead after two periods of hockey. Chris Kunitz added a third goal halfway through the final period.
The game was defensive as expected, with tight checks, solid goaltending and goal posts saving both netminders on more than one occasion.
Team Canada took the lead and shut down the Swedes offensively, going on to win the gold. Carey Price made 24 saves for the shutout.
Nicklas Backstrom was not in the lineup for the Swedes, a huge hit to a team already missing key players.
Sweden’s goalie Henrik Lundqvist was tested early on in the game by the Sidney Crosby line, but Team Canada was unable to get its offensive game going in the first half of the period.
Price (and his right goal pipe) made a huge save on the Swedes five minutes into the first period, keeping the game scoreless.
With seven minutes left in the period Toews gave Canada the 1-0 lead, tipping in a Jeff Carter shot. Shea Weber also picked up an assist.
Canada got its first power play of the game with five minutes left in the first. Jonathan Ericsson went to the box, two minutes for holding.
Canada got a penalty with 12 seconds left in the period, Kunitz serving two minutes for high sticking. Sweden started the second period with the extra man.
Shots on net in the first period were 12-11 for Canada.
Canada killed off Sweden’s penalty and followed up with huge chances on Lundqvist, missed shots by Martin St. Louis at even strength and Corey Perry on the power play.
Perry had another great chance in the second – looking for his first goal of the tournament, on a two-on-one – but was denied by Sweden’s netminder.
After being outshot in the first half of the period, Canada picked up the intensity, keeping pressure and a ton of traffic in front of the Swedish net.
Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby got his first goal of the tournament with minutes left in the second, breaking away from the Swedish defence on a turnover and squeaking one in off the skate of Lundqvist, widening Canada’s lead to 2-0.
Sweden switched up its lines to start the third period, with 20 minutes left to crack Price.
Team Canada kept up an aggressive, offensive game in the third, not sitting back on its two-goal lead.
Kunitz gave Canada a third goal and some breathing room nine minutes into the third.
As the clock ticked down, Canada’s defence took over, shutting down Sweden’s forwards. Price earned the shutout, making 24 saves.
In back-to-back Winter Olympic tournaments, Canada won the gold medal in men’s hockey.
Leading up to the gold medal game
Neither team was expected to give up a lot of goals, in what promised to be a tense, low-scoring game.
“It’s going to be tight again,” said Jamie Benn, who scored the lone goal in Canada’s semifinal win against the U.S.. “They know how to play a great team game on this ice.”
“They’re a puck possession team,” said Ryan Getzlaf on Friday. “Anyone who’s played against the Swedes knows that they like to have the puck and move it around. We’ve got to do much the same as we did tonight.”
Canada was guaranteed a medal on Sunday – the first time Team Canada has won a medal in men’s hockey in an Olympics held outside of North America since NHLers began participating in the tournament in 1998.
It was the third time in the last four Olympics that Canada won double gold in hockey – the women’s team beat the U.S. in a thrilling overtime victory.
Both teams went into the gold medal game undefeated, with a 5-0 record. But the trip there was markedly different.
Sweden handled the competition with relative ease. Canada’s road to the final wasn’t easy.
“A lot of people expect us to be there, and expect us to just show up in the final and have a chance to play for the gold medal,” said Toews. “But we knew it was going to be a lot of work, a lot of effort and a lot of adversity to get there.”
Through much of the tournament, Canada has scored only exactly as many goals as needed to win the game (and not a single one more, much to the chagrin of nervous fans across the country). The score was too close for comfort in many of their match-ups: winning 1-0 against the U.S., 2-1 against Latvia, 2-1 in overtime against Finland.
The team’s goal-starved forwards have taken a beating from critics – before the gold medal game, star forwards Crosby, Toews, Perry and Martin St. Louis had yet to score a goal. The majority of Canada’s offence has come from two defencemen: Shea Weber and Drew Doughty.
But goals or not, Team Canada picked up the intensity against the Americans; Crosby flew up and down the ice, creating scoring chances for his teammates. Toews and his linemates took the American’s high-scoring line of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Joe Pavelski out of the game.
Team Canada’s lineup vs Sweden
Head coach Mike Babcock kept the same lines as Friday’s game.
Crosby centred Chris Kunitz and Patrice Bergeron, Getzlaf centred Benn and Perry. Toews centred Patrick Marleau and Jeff Carter. Matt Duchene, who stepped in to replace injured John Tavares, centred Patrick Sharp and Rick Nash. St. Louis rotated in as the extra forward.
The defence pairings were: Duncan Keith with Weber, Jay Bouwmeester with Alex Pietrangelo, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic with Doughty. Dan Hamhuis rotated in as the seventh defenceman.
Carey Price was perfect in net against a strong U.S. squad, making 31 saves for the shutout. He started on Sunday, with Roberto Luongo backing him up.
“It’s incredible the way he [Price] controls the hockey game,” said Getzlaf. “Every time the puck comes he eats it…or he gets rid of it. Those are things that we notice as players and it helps keep us calm.”
P.K. Subban and Mike Smith were healthy scratches. New York Islanders captain John Tavares is out of the Olympics and remainder of the NHL season after injuring his left knee during Canada’s game against Latvia.
Sweden also lost key players during the Olympic tournament. Henrik Zetterberg’s tournament ended during the preliminary round because of a herniated disc. Right before the game started on Sunday, it was announced Nicklas Backstrom would not play, a huge hit to the Swedes. Sweden is also without star players Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen.
Sweden’s netminder Henrik Lundqvist was strong throughout the tournament, with a 5-0 record and two shutouts leading up to Sunday’s game.
I've been up since 4am! This is me right now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeuU3pT2uss 0:52
Probably gonna go shed some happy tears tonight at the Vancouver Olympics torch at 6pm it will light up!