A go-ahead goal by Olli Jokinen 6:17 into the second period wouldn’t be enough for Finland as the Swedes would rally with two of their own in the second, good enough to stamp their ticket for the gold medal game with a 2-1 victory.
Sweden dominated the game early, outshooting the Finns 13-10, but that’s not nearly indicative of how aggressive they were out of the gate. That aggressiveness, however, would lead to three penalties, including a juicy five-on-three advantage for Finland. However, the Mikael Granlund/Teemu Selanne connection could just never get going thanks to the exceptional defense of the Swedes. It’s not that there wasn’t offensive zone time on the power play, but a Swedish stick would get in the way of Granlund’s pass or the puck would hop over Selanne’s stick and into the corner. Of the 10 penalty minutes assessed against Sweden, the Finns couldn’t convert on any of their power play chances.
The second period was much closer as the Finns seemed to find their groove at first, especially upon taking the lead off a thread-the-needle goal from Olli Jokinen that found its way past Henrik Lundqvist and into the back of the net. However, you can never count out the Swedes. Finnish goaltender Kari Lehtonen would find himself out of position as Granlund went down in front to block a shot from the high slot by Jonathan Ericsson who then deferred to Loui Eriksson below the right wing circle for the goal. Lehtonen made the surprise start for the Finns with No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask out with the flu.
With less than five minutes to go in the second period, Sweden would go on their second power play of the game. Some excellent defense by the Finns made finding shooting lanes difficult, but an Erik Karlsson blast from the blue line would deflect off Lehtonen’s arm and into the back of the net for Karlsson’s fourth goal and eighth point of the tournament. Sweden went into the second intermission leading slightly in shots on goal in the period by a total of 9-8.
The Finns came roaring back in the third and final period, outshooting Sweden 8-3, but the damage was done. Sweden moves on to the gold medal game where they will face the winner of this morning’s next matchup of Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and the United States against Canada. That game will be aired on NBC Sports Network at 11:00 AM Central Time.
What a tournament it’s been for the Finns, though. Even with numerous injuries down the middle of the forward lineup–and a sick goaltender–Finland still has a shot at a medal. There’s no question this tournament has been a coming of age of sorts for Minnesota Wild center Mikael Granlund. Finland’s next great hope, Granlund created plenty of scoring chances and smart defensive plays while notching a shot on goal and a negative-1 rating in 21:19 of ice-time–the most among any other skater on the team and a full 1:38 more than the Finnish Flash. In five games, Granlund leads his country with three goals and his five points are tied for first on the team with Jokinen and defenseman Sami Vatanen. In addition, he is also a plus-2 rating and has generated a staggering 20 shots on goal. You can bet Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher will be expecting this sudden eagerness to shoot the puck to continue when he rejoins the Wild next week.
Up next, Team USA and Canada. Should be a good one.