BUFFALO – Goals by Oscar Lindberg and Anton Lander in the shootout gave Sweden a 6-5 victory over Canada at HSBC Arena this afternoon and a bye to the semi-finals.
The result also forces Canada to the quarter-finals which will be played on January 2 in Buffalo. Sweden won’t play again until the semi-finals on January 3. It was Canada's first loss in the Preliminary Round since December 29, 2007, when Sweden also won, 4-3, a stretch of 12 victories.
As well, the loss means Canada cannot meet the United States in the gold-medal game. A Switzerland win tonight over the U.S. will set up a Canada-U.S. quarter-finals, and a win by the U.S. and subsequent wins by both teams would set up a semi-final game.
It was a thriller in regulation, also during the five-minute overtime, but the shootout was anticlimatic for the vast majority of the 17.761 fans.
Oscar Lindberg and captain Anton Lander both scored with backhand moves on Olivier Roy, while Robin Lehner redeemed himself for a sub-par performance during the game by making pad saves on Ryan Ellis and Braydon Schenn.
In last year's New Year's World Juniors game in Saskatoon, Canada defeated the U.S. 5-4 in a shootout after coming back from a 4-2 deficit.
"I've never won a game against a Canadian team before, "said a delighted Calle Järnkrok. "Now that we have won the group, we have the advantage of another day of practise and having to play one less game."
Today was a battle of two perfect teams, both entering the game with 3-0-0 records, but both teams were far from perfect this day. The respective goalies, in truth, were particularly weak, but in the end Robin Lehner made two critical stops in the shootout and Olivier Roy allowed two goals on three shots.
"I don't think either goalie was player of the game today," Canada's coach Dave Cameron acknowledged. "I think they both like to have some of those shots back, but that's why you play the game."
"It was a great game," said Canada's captain Ryan Ellis. "Two powerhouses collided and gave the fans great entertainment. It was their turn to win."
Swedish forward Patick Cehlin made an important observation. "Whenever we play against Canada, they are always very confident, and you can see it in their eyes. Today, the further game went on, they lost this look in their eyes."
The first period was nothing if not entertaining, complete with goals, hard hits, pushing and showing after the whistle, and a wild crowd creating a playoff-like atmosphere.
The game was scarcely two minutes old when the game was tied 1-1. Canada opened the scoring when John Klingberg made a bad giveaway up the middle and Sean Couturier gobbled the puck up outside the Sweden blue line.
He drove down the right wing, all the while watching as Marcus Foligno drove to the goal. At the perfect moment, Couturier made the pass. It didn’t make it to his teammate but the puck squirted past goalie Robin Lehner after deflecting off the skate of defenceman Klas Dahlbeck who was watching Foligno.
However, Casey Cizikas took a hooking penalty, and on the ensuing power play the Swedes tied it up. Rickard Rakell took a shot off the rush which Roy couldn’t handle, and Max Friberg batted the rebound out of the air and in.
Carl Klingberg atoned for his brother's error at 14:55 when he roofed a wrist shot over the glove of the diminutive Roy to give Sweden a 2-1 lead. It was well deserved. Sweden was moving the puck effortlessly out of its end and controlled play in Canada’s end.
Moments later, though, Lehner returned the favour. Quinton Howden’s routine wrist shot ended up in the net after Lehner whiffed on the glove-side shot.
"We never panicked," said Sebastian Wannstrom. "We always believed we could come back."
As time wound down in the period, Ryan Johansen tore down the right wing, and as he crossed the blue line fans screamed “shoot!” as the period was about to expire. He shot well high and wide, but the puck hit a metal support and bounced right back into the crease. Curtis Hamilton knocked the puck in with only 0.5 seconds left on the clock.
Just 52 seconds into the second period Sweden tied it up on another weak play from Roy, who seems incapable of controlling the puck. Carl Klingberg again banged at a puck from in close that lofted over Roy’s shoulders and settled into the cage to make it 3-3.
Less than two minutes later, Sweden took the lead when Jesper Thornberg ripped a long shot over Roy’s shoulder, but with Mario Tremblay-like stubbornness coach Dave Cameron refused to make a goalie change.
Sweden was in full control and got a power play soon after, but this goalfest saw Canada tie the game with a short-handed marker on the team’s first shot of the period, at 4:37. Brayden Schenn, the leading scorer in the tournament, broke out on a two-on-one and slid a pass to Hamilton at the crease.
The rest of the period was goalless and tame, and defencemen from both teams became more efficient at getting their sticks in passing and shooting lanes to make life easier for their struggling goalies.
Sweden had yet to incur a penalty by the start of the final period, but that changed early when it got two in a row. Schenn got the go-ahead goal at 3:22 on the second one when he knocked in a loose puck from the crease area, another goal that will never make the TSN plays of the year nominees.
Moments later, Patrcik Cehlin had Roy beaten cleanly on a shot off the rush, but the puck rattled off the post and stayed out. The goalie wasn't so lucky midway through the period when Cehlin drilled a high shot to the short side and in, beating Roy cleanly and tying the game, 5-5.
The rest of the third and five minutes of four-on-four overtime settled nothing, setting the stage for the decisive shotoout. Canada's Ryan Ellis and Schenn were stopped by Lehner, and Roy couldn't perform as admirably in the Canadian net.
"To win this game is an unbelievable feeling," said Wännstrom. "It's so good to show the world that we are the best."