Sweden edges Finland to reach gold medal game
Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Sweden will play for men's hockey Olympic gold again.
Erik Karlsson snapped a second-period tie with a power-play goal and Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves to lead the Swedes to a 2-1 victory over Finland in Friday's first semifinal of the Sochi Games.
Loui Eriksson also scored for the Swedes, who will meet Canada in Sunday's gold medal game. The defending Olympic champion Canadians advanced with a 1-0 win over the United States in Friday's second semifinal.
Sweden previously won Olympic gold in 1994 and 2006. The 1994 title came against Canada in a thrilling shootout in Norway. It was the last Olympic hockey tournament before the NHL began participation.
The 2006 Olympic championship came at the expense of Friday's opponent, Finland, which has still never won Olympic gold and will play for a bronze medal on Saturday against the United States.
Olli Jokinen scored for Finland, which was without goaltender Tuukka Rask because of an illness. Kari Lehtonen got the start for the Finns and turned aside 23 shots in defeat.
Lehtonen, who started once in the preliminary round and made 20 saves in a 6-1 win over Norway, was solid for most of Friday's contest, but failed to come up with Karlsson's shot late in the second and it proved to be the difference.
With Jokinen in the penalty box for tripping, the Swedes worked the puck around the perimeter on the power play and set up for Karlsson's one-time blast from the center point. Lehtonen may have been partially screened by a pair of Finnish defenders in the slot and the puck squeezed through him for the go-ahead goal with 3:34 remaining.
Sweden nearly extended the lead moments after the opening faceoff of the third period with a 2-on-1, but Lehtonen turned aside Daniel Sedin's shot from the left circle.
The Finns had a power-play opportunity midway through the third, but failed to cash in and didn't have many good scoring chances the rest of the way.
Sweden was unable to convert a 3-on-1 break with 4:45 remaining and the Finns pulled Lehtonen with about a minute to play, but were unable to produce a quality chance with the extra attacker.
Lundqvist, who backstopped Sweden to gold eight years ago in Torino, stopped all eight shots he faced in the third period.
Sweden had the better of the play early, but failed to beat Lehtonen, and Lundqvist made a nice stop on Leo Komarov's 2-on-1 chance midway through the opening period.
Finland didn't do much on an early power play, then had a 5-on-3 for 96 seconds later in the first. Lundqvist, though, made a great right pad save on a shot from the left circle by Teemu Selanne and got help from his defense with five blocked shots during the extended two-man advantage.
The Finns grabbed a 1-0 lead 6:17 into the second period. Jokinen chased down a puck deep in the Swedish zone after officials had waived off a potential icing call and fired a shot from just below the left circle that snuck through Lundqvist. The officials initially ruled no goal, saying the whistle had stopped play, but a review confirmed the puck was in the net before the whistle sounded.
Finland had a chance to expand the lead on a power play soon after and Lundqvist came up with a big stop on a rebound in front. The Swedes then tied it less than two minutes after the penalty expired when Eriksson was left unchecked at the right side of the crease and took a feed from Jonathan Ericsson before sweeping a shot past Lehtonen.
02/21 14:22:43 ET