COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 21: Sweden players and staff celebrate after a 2-1 shoot-out win over Canada in the gold medal game at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Backstrom, Ekman-Larsson score in shootout
A tense, nervous, cautious game from start to finish produced two fluky goals, 20 minutes of overtime, and a decisive shootout. Final score, 2-1, Sweden.
Nicklas Backstrom and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored shootout goals and goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped all four shots he faced, giving Sweden its first World Championship gold medal since 2013.
It also marked the first time in four gold-medal games between the two nations that Sweden beat Canada (having lost in the finals of 1997, 2003, and 2004).
Canada, trying to win a third straight gold, has to settle for silver.
The only other World Championship gold-medal game to go to a shootout was in 1994, when Canada beat Finland.
Sweden's captain, Joel Lundqvist, now joins Sven "Tumba" Johansson, Mats Sundin, and Jonas Bergqvist as the only members of Tre Kronor to win three World Championship gold medals.
"For me it's the first time ever winning something with Team Sweden," enthused Marcus Kruger. "I know how important this is for all the guys on the team and for Swedish hockey in general. It's going to be a good thing to come back to Sweden and share it with the people there. It's going to be great to celebrate with the Swedish fans."
Jonas Brodin concurred: "It's really big. For Sweden and everything, it's amazing, a dream come true. It's going to be incredible when we go home. That's why we play, for Sweden, for the people there."
"We had chances to finish it in overtime, but I guess that's the way it goes," said Canadian Travis Konecny. "But you know what? Our goalie kept us in that game, he was great, he stood on his head all night and gave us a way to get back in it. Overtime was nerve-wracking. I dunno, it's tough to swallow but at the same time they played a good game. It's heart-breaking, it's not what we came here for but it's good experience for me. It's my first time coming to this. There were definitely a lot of butterflies in those last minutes, in overtime and the shootout. It's crazy."
In order to get to the shootout, Canada had to kill an overtime tripping penalty to Sean Couturier, and it did so masterfully. Besides that, Canada had several dangerous forays into the Swedish end but couldn't beat Lundqvist, who came over to the team mid-tournament after his New York Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Both goalies – Lundqvist and Cal Pickard – were named Best Player of the game for their respective teams.
"Henrik's been playing an awesome game, giving us a chance to win every time," Kruger said. "We know his track record. He's a winner and he's shown that today. He's a guy who comes up big in big games. Just look at his record in game sevens, and in playoffs and with Sweden, too."
Nate MacKinnon, Brayden Point, Ryan O'Reilly, and Mitch Marner all missed their shots in the shootout, O'Reilly hitting the post with his.
"It's hard to describe when it goes to a shootout like that," Alexander Edler said. "Everything happens so fast and you're world champion. I’m letting this sink in. It is an unbelievable feeling. It was two good teams that played really well and really tight. In a shootout you never know what is going to happen but Henrik was great in net."
It was a game of bounces, a game full of tension from the opening minute that only got heavier as the game wore on. Canada had the better of play throughout, including superb penalty killing, but while Sweden failed to do much in the way of offence, Canada failed to translate its puck pursuit and possession into goals.
Canada's team was comprised entirely of NHLers with one late exception, Chris Lee, while the Swedes had 19 NHLers, making this a North American-style Stanley Cup playoff game on a big sheet of ice.
The first period was cautiously played by both sides, but that didn’t mean it was without chances. Sweden had the only two power plays of the first 20 minutes, but Canada’s penalty killers were flawless.
Canada had the best two chances to score. Mark Scheifele and MacKinnon created some speed through centre ice and hooked up for a nice passing play in the Sweden zone, Scheifele finishing by ripping a shot off the post behind Lundqvist.
Later, a long Ryan O’Reilly shot was kicked out by Lundqvist, but Matt Duchene couldn't tuck the rebound in.
Canada played flawless defence for most of two periods and had the majority of puck possession and scoring chances. An early penalty in the second to Backstrom gave the Canadians a couple of good chances, but they couldn’t convert.
Mike Matheson made a nice rush around the Sweden goal, but no one was in front for his centring pass. Soon after, Gabriel Landeskog nailed a quick one-timer, but Pickard was right there to make the save.
Backstrom took another penalty at the end of the period, and this led to the game’s first goal on a crazy play. Canada lost the puck inside its blue line and Colton Parayko tried to sweep it away. Victor Hedman backhanded the puck on goal from the blue line merely trying to get the puck deep on the penalty kill, but it bounced and floated and dribbled between Pickard’s pads with only 20.8 seconds left in the period.
"I got a fortunate bounce," Hedman acknowledged. "I wasn’t really friends with the puck there in the second period, so I just threw it at the net, and Joel and Krugs did a good job in front of the goalie. I don’t think he really saw it. I got a lucky bounce and the puck had eyes. It was good."
All that perfect defence from Canada gave way to bad luck, a fluky goal, and a 1-0 Sweden lead on a short-handed goal.
Canada didn't score on that power play to start the third, but it got another soon after and did score on an equally strange play. Marner took a shot and O'Reilly got the rebound. His shot went off Lundqvist's stick, off his mask, over his shoulder, and in at 1:58 to even the count at 1-1.
The rest of the period felt like overtime, and both teams survived late penalties to, indeed, send the game to a 20-minute fourth period – and a shootout.
"It is hard to explain how you feel," Lee said. "It took 80 minutes of five on five to make it 1-1. It is unfortunate to have games end in shootouts. It would have been nice to see who would come out on top if we continued playing overtime, but it is what it is. Sweden played a great game; we played a great game. It was a tight match."