Sweden Edges Finns, Earns Shot At Gold
SOCHI -- Led by goals by Loui Eriksson and Erik Karlsson and 25 saves from Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden defeated archrival Finland in the semifinals Friday of the 2014 Sochi Olympics and will play for the gold medal Sunday.
The Swedes will face Canada or the United States, which plays in the second semifinal (Noon ET, NBCSN, CBC), and will have the chance to claim gold for the second time in three Olympics.
It was the 76th time Sweden and Finland have played in the IIHF World Championships or the Olympics. Sweden now holds a 44-17-15 edge, and has won the past three meetings in the Olympics, including victories in the preliminary round four years ago in Vancouver and in the gold medal game eight years ago in Turin.
Winnipeg Jets forward Olli Jokinen opened the scoring for Finland with his second goal of the tournament at 6:17 of the second period. Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen sent the puck out of his zone and into the left corner in Sweden's end, but a linesman waived off icing.
Jokinen won the race to the puck and snapped a shot that leaked through Lundqvist and across the goal line. The goal initially was waived off, but after a quick review the goal stood and Finland had a 1-0 lead.
The Finns controlled more of the play after the goal but Eriksson tied the game less than five minutes later. Nicklas Backstrom sent a pass from beyond the goal line to Jonathan Ericsson, who fed Eriksson at the far side of the net for his second goal of the tournament at 11:39.
Finland had four of the first five power plays in this game but could not convert, including a 5-on-3 for 1:35 in the first period. Sweden got a second man advantage late in the second period and cashed in for the lead.
Karlsson ripped a shot from the top of the offensive zone that ticked off goaltender Kari Lehtonen's right arm and under the crossbar. It was Karlsson's fourth goal of the tournament. He also has eight points, which tied him with Phil Kessel of the United States for the lead.
Lehtonen was a surprise starter for this game. The Dallas Stars netminder had to step in because Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was ruled out with an illness. Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks dressed as the backup.
Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was dressed as Sweden's seventh defenseman but did not play. Ekman-Larsson's ice time has been reduced significantly since Alexander Edler of the Vancouver Canucks returned to the lineup after finishing a suspension that carried over from the 2013 World Championship.