Sweden coach Par Marts seemed to fire up - or at least annoy - Finland’s players and coaches by predicting Russia would advance to play his team in the semifinals. But the Finns couldn’t turn the bulletin-board material into enough energy to make a difference against a team that seems to have more talent.
Given another chance to make a pick, Canada or the U.S., Marts refused to budge.
“You going to use it against me?” he asked. “I had that question a couple days ago. You can watch the game and then you know.”
The Finns are usually good at keeping leads by clogging the middle of the ice, forcing teams to the outside of the wider ice surface used in international play, but they were unable to stop Sweden in a pair of pivotal moments.
“It’s tough, we had a lead,” Jokinen said. “We should have been able to put them away.”
Eriksson scored from the right side of the net, benefiting from tape-to-tape passes from Jonathan Ericsson and Nicklas Backstrom after Daniel Sedin forced Olli Maatta into a turnover.
Less than five minutes later, Karlsson didn’t need as much help. His long blast beat Lehtonen’s blocker for a goal that gives Sweden a shot to win what might be the last Olympic gold medal with NHL players in the tournament.
The world’s top professional league and its players’ union have yet to commit to playing at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018, and both sides said this past week that the decision could be made within six months.
The Finns’ last Olympic win against Sweden, their European neighbor, was in 1998, the first games with NHL players. Finland went on to win bronze in Nagano, and it has earned three medals in the NHL era, more than any other nation.
The Swedes can join Canada as the only country to win two gold medals since NHL players began participating in the Olympics. It would be quite a feat for a team missing three of its best players, all of whom would be top-line forwards.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg pulled out of the Olympics after playing in one game because of a herniated disk. Henrik Sedin, Daniel’s twin, and Johan Franzen didn’t make the trip to Russia because of injuries.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling being back in the final and playing for gold,” Sweden forward Daniel Alfredsson said. “Except for our setback with Zetterberg. I felt so sad for him.”
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