BRATISLAVA – Sweden overcame a 1-0 deficit in the second period with a furious rally to defeat the Czechs 5-2 this afternoon at Orange Arena. The win gives Tre Kronor the first spot in Sunday night’s gold medal game. Great goaltending from Viktor Fasth and goals in the middle period from Patrik Berglund and Mikael Backlund were the difference.
Czech Republic - Sweden 2-5 (0-0, 1-2, 1-3) Game Sheet Photos
The victory eradicated ghosts of 2010 when the Czechs scored in the final seconds to tie the semi-final game against Sweden, won 3-2 in overtime, and went on to win gold. Tre Kronor would surrender no such miracle goal today.
Berglund had two goals for the winners and Mikael Backlund had a goal and an assist. Patrik Elias had both Czech goals.
"I don't think was an upset," said Sweden's Robert Nilsson said of the result. "They had a lot of good chances, but we were on the right side of the puck, and our goalie was outstanding, as always."
After a scoreless and dull first period, the building came to life in a middle period in which Sweden outshot the Czechs, 26-10. Just 46 seconds in, Milan Michalek burst down the right wing and when he was in the Swedish corner he backhanded a pass out front. Patrik Elias was cutting in from the far wing and was lucky enough to have the puck bounce off Fasth’s stick, off his stick, and over the blocker of the goalie for the game’s first goal.
This forced the Swedes to open up, and they almost tied it a few minutes later. Martin Thörnberg got free in the slot and fired a nice shot that Pavelec snared with his glove. Roman Cervenka then took the first penalty of the night, and the Swedes capitalized. Patrik Berglund’s point shot went all the way through traffic and beat Pavelec to the short side to tie the game.
"You can’t think about it too much when they score," said Magnus Pääjärvi. "You have to work through it. We kept working and stayed patient. We got a goal after that pretty quickly on the power play. That’s a sign of good teams; they just work their way through."
"I thought we started pretty well," said Milan Michalek. "We scored the first goal, and then I thought we backed up too much and gave them so much space in the neutral zone. They were flying in on our defencemen. We couldn’t control them after that."
The Czechs responded. Marek Zidlicky threw a pass up the middle from his goal line to Elias at the Swedish blueline, but Elias drifted a shot over the net on the breakaway chance. Most of the rest of the period belonged to Tre Kronor.
Niklas Persson was the trailed on a three-on-two and he nailed a hard shot that Pavelec got a piece of with his glove. Late in the period Sweden took the lead for the first time on a harmless-looking play. Mikael Backlund skated down the right side and then snapped a quick shot off his back skate that went over the far shoulder of Pavelec an in. It was a goal that would have made Mark Messier proud, and the pro-Czech crowd sat in stunned disbelief by the turn of events.
Later, on a Sweden penalty, Karel Rachunek put his hand on the puck in the crease, resulting in a penalty shot. Louis Eriksson, though, tried the Forsberg one-handed deke, and the puck slid by the post. Before the end of the period the Swedes looked a little lethargic on an extended five-on-three at a time when a goal might have all but put the game out of reach, but all the same it was a wild and exciting period and Sweden was in the lead, 2-1.
The penalty-free first period proved just how much these two teams are comfortable with playing outside the faceoff dots. Rare were the times players drove hard to the net, with or without the puck, and the result was a period with few good chances and little entertainment.
One such rare moment came when Roman Cervenka had an excellent chance for the Czechs midway through the period. His quick snap shot in the slot was stopped by the left shoulder of Fasth.
Moments later, Jiri Novotny curled off the boards and into the high slot, but he delivered a wrist shot right into the gut of Fasth. For Sweden, none of the team’s nine shots were a serious test for Ondrej Pavelec.
Sweden put the game out of reach at 8:07 of the third on a two-on-one. Backlund skated down the left wing, waited for Zidlicky to commit, and slid the puck over to Jimmie Ericsson who swiped it into the open net.
"We played well in the first period, but then we made a bad mistake," said Czech coach Alois Hadamczik. "We had too many individual mistakes in the second period. We didn’t play the game we played throughout the whole tournament. The decisive goal was when Sweden scored the third goal."
This forced the Czechs to gamble and go for goals. The result, as is often the case, was another given up. Marcus Krüger was given credit for a goal on a scramble in close on Pavelec to make it 4-1.
Elias got the second Czech goal at 14:32 with a shot from in close, and Backlund ended the game with an empty netter.
"It was a lot of fun," said Pääjärvi. "We executed our game plan well. We didn’t give them too much, except for the last goal they got, which was a turnover by us. Other than that we played pretty well, and we’re looking forward to Sunday."
"We've said all along that we'll go for gold," said David Petrasek, "and we've got a lot of criticism. Not many people have believed in us, but I hope they now realize that we're serious."