CRIMMITSCHAU – In a battle between two great offensive teams, it turned out to be the goalkeepers that stole the show in the semi-final game between Sweden and Russia, as Swedish goalie Niklas Lundström outduelled Russia's Andrei Vasilevski in a 3-1 victory.
Sweden vs. Russia 3-1 (0-1, 1-0, 2-0) Game Sheet Photos
Both teams played with purpose right from the beginning, as the opening frame was marked by great end-to-end action and a sublime display of puckhandling by two of the world’s top hockey nations.
It would be Team Russia that struck first on the scoreboard. Four minutes into the period, Russia’s Nikita Kucherov got the puck down low in the Swedish zone and sent a pass back to Roman Konkov at the point. Konkov’s wristshot was stopped by Sweden’s Niklas Lundström, but the rebound dribbled across the crease and Sergei Smurov dived forward to knock it in for the first goal.
Though the Russian forwards were able put pressure on Lundstrom early on, the team had to rely on some admirable goaltending from Andrei Vasilevski. The Russian netminder was called upon to kill off three Swedish power plays in the first two periods, robbing both Sweden’s Victor Rask and Joachim Nermark of two great scoring chances close to the net. Lundström was no slouch either, playing with confidence on the penalty kill and stoning the Russians on a pair of breakaways.
The Swedes finally solved Vasilevski with just under nine minutes remaining in the second period. After failing to score on a second consecutive power play, forward Mika Zibanejad skated behind the Russian net and found linemate Jeremy Boyce Rotevall with a pass in front of the net for the tying score.
With the score even at one apiece heading into the third period, and with little separating these two teams offensively, it came down to a grinding goal by Sweden that decided the match.
Just over five minutes into the period, Swedish forward William Karlsson took the puck into the front of the net and shot at Vasilevski. The puck did not go through, but with the rebound loose a scrum broke out involving three Swedish players hacking away at the Russian goaltender. Vasilevski fell onto his back, and the puck squirted out to the middle of the crease for Gustav Björklund to knock it in for the go-ahead goal.
Despite Vasilevski’s objection that he had frozen the puck, the referees allowed the goal. The visibly agitated Russian goaltender still managed to keep his team in the game, holding the fort against a renewed Swedish attack following the score.
However, his forwards did not do enough to threaten Lundström in the third period, managing just nine shots to Sweden’s 19. And just when Team Russia was in need of a power play, forward Nail Yakupov took an interference penalty when he ran into the Swedish goaltender. The penalty put Russia on the defensive for two of the final four minutes of the game, hampering any efforts at a comeback.
With under a minute to go Sweden added an empty net goal, punching their ticket to the gold medal game. The Russians will play Sunday afternoon for the bronze medal against the loser of the Canada-USA semi-final.