- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2012

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Washington Capitals center Marcus Johansson never got to enjoy a gold-medal celebration at the world junior championships. In two appearances, including one in which he served as captain of Sweden, he won silver and bronze.

So when Sweden beat Russia 1-0 in overtime for gold at the tournament Thursday night, Johansson understandably thrilled.

Sweden has been so close so many years now and never gotten it,” he said. “I think I was almost as happy as the guys who won it.”

Johansson read of Swedish studio analysts being brought to the brink of tears and couldn’t stop smiling when talking about his country’s first junior gold since 1981.

Johansson’s experience of falling short in 2009 and 2010 set the tone for his feelings when watching this final.

“It was really something you wanted to win, and you were so committed to it and the whole Swedish people were into it,” Johansson said. “It’s getting bigger and bigger — that tournament back home. You just wanted to win with everything you had. It was so tough to lose it the last game against Canada my first year. You don’t want to see anyone go through that.”

Russia’s players did have to go through that, though many, including Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, tasted victory at last year’s tournament.

“It was tough loss but I think the Sweden deserve it,” said captain Alex Ovechkin, who similarly praised goaltender Andrei Makarov (57 saves). “They play very well. I don’t think we have that kind of energy what Sweden have.”

Center Nicklas Backstrom was beaming, too, the day after Sweden got gold. But he said it’s good for the whole team, no matter players’ nationalities.

“Me and Marcus are happy that Sweden won today. Otherwise, we would be hearing from the Russians,” Backstrom said. “I think me and Marcus are a little calmer than them. I think it’s good for the whole team that Sweden won.”

Semin ‘ready to go’

Alexander Semin missed Tuesday night’s game against the Calgary Flames and has been practicing the rest of the week as a part of the fourth line, but coach Dale Hunter seemed to indicate that the Russian winger would be in the lineup Saturday night at the San Jose Sharks.

Asked if Semin would play, Hunter said: “Yeah, he’s ready to go now.”

About Mathieu Perreault’s status, Hunter replied: “I don’t know the lineup yet, who’s in or out.”

Perreault would figure to be a healthy scratch if Semin returns.

Block party

One of the pieces of the Caps’ recent success has had to do with blocked shots. They’ve had over 20 in each of their four straight victories (24 vs. Flames, 22 vs. Blue Jackets, 23 vs. Sabres, 20 vs. Rangers).

And though Hunter said part of that was having to kill a lot of penalties, it’s still an important key for this Caps team.

“It’s a big part of the game, and I believe in it,” the coach said. “It’s not pleasant blocking that puck, but they’re sacrificing them and it’s a credit to them.”

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