STOCKHOLM – Sweden advanced to Sunday’s gold medal game with a 3-0 semi-final win over Nordic archrival Finland. The top line clicked nicely as Loui Eriksson scored twice on the power play, with the Sedin brothers assisting on both goals.
Henrik Sedin added an empty-netter in the final minute.
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"I’m really glad that we’re in the final now," said Swedish coach Pär Mårts. "We had a tough opponent. Finland has a defensively well-organized team. It’s hard to beat them, but we found a way. We played a good game, but we need to play better and we can play better.
The Swedes must now prepare to face the winner of the Switzerland-U.S. semi-final. Finland will take on the loser of that game for bronze.
Since arriving to play against Denmark in Sweden’s last round-robin game, the Sedins have been involved in two or more goals in each of their team's games.
"Now we have a power play that is really dangerous," said Sweden's Henrik Tallinder. "We did not have that before the twins showed up."
The Swedes haven’t won World Championship gold since defeating the Czechs 4-0 in the 2006 final. Finland’s last title came in 2011 with a 6-1 romp over Sweden.
Swedish netminder Jhonas Enroth managed to outduel his Finnish counterpart Antti Raanta en route to his second shutout of the tournament. Final shots favoured Sweden 31-30.
"Jhonas is playing great," said Sweden's Simon Hjalmarsson. "He's stopping all of the first shots. We just have to clear the rebounds for him."
"The biggest thing today is that we didn't score," said Finland's Marko Anttila. "We can't win if we can't score. They were better today."
After scoring 27 times in its first eight games, Finland saw its offence dry up at a very inconvenient time.
Finland’s Petri Kontiola entered the game as the tournament points leader (15), but his only contribution on the scoresheet here was a pair of minor penalties.
The teams got two power plays apiece in the evenly played first period, but only Tre Kronor managed to capitalize.
Sweden got its second man advantage when Ilari Melart was sent off at 9:40 for cross-checking Fredrik Pettersson deep in the Finnish end.
Fifty-three seconds later, the Swedes drew first blood when Henrik Sedin’s soft flip shot from the bottom of the right faceoff circle bounced off a screening Eriksson’s right leg and in.
Finland’s best chance of the opening frame went to assistant captain Niklas Hagman, who missed a great opportunity next to Enroth’s right post.
The Swedes went right back to the power play in the first minute of the second, with Kontiola hauling down Henrik Sedin. Midway through the second, Finland briefly carried the play, but Enroth was equal to the task whenever the blue-and-white team tested him from long range.
With under five minutes left in the second period, Kontiola went off again for holding with the Swedes pressing offensively. The Sedin line came through again.
Playing behind the net in Wayne Gretkzy-like fashion, Henrik Sedin stepped up to the goal line and sent a beautiful centering pass to Eriksson, who beat Raanta high to the blocker side for a 2-0 lead at 16:13.
"The Sedins are the difference," said Mårts. "They’re great on the power play. They mean so much for us and gave our team self-confidence the way they played."
The Swedes protected their lead in the third period, even though the Finns picked up their tempo. The crowd chanted "Enroth!", clapping rhythmically.
The Finns pulled Raanta for a sixth attacker with under two minutes left, but it was to no avail.
"I think we played pretty well today," said Finnish coach Jukka Jalonen. "We had the same amount of scoring chances, but we didn’t put the puck into the net and if you don’t score you don’t win. Sweden was very efficient on the power play. That made a big difference."
Swedish defenceman Alexander Edler missed this game, as he is suspended until the end of the tournament for an illegal hit on Canada’s Eric Staal in the quarter-final.
International hockey legends like Sweden’s Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin, Nicklas Lidström and former Russian national team coach Viktor Tikhonov were in attendance. Periodically, Russian fans chanted "Rossiya!" as if it would somehow magically conjure up their team on the ice. The Russians fell 8-3 to the U.S. in the quarter-finals.
Finland’s three best players of the tournament were named: Antti Raanta, Sami Lepistö, and Petri Kontiola. For Sweden, it was Jhonas Enroth, Daniel Sedin, and Henrik Sedin.
Sweden holds a solid overall head-to-head advantage versus Finland at the Worlds (37-12-15).