In a game that many people would have preferred to happen later in the tournament, Russia held on to take down Sweden 5-3 on Thursday, earning a spot in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Jhonas Enroth had to be very busy right away. The championship winning goaltender for Sweden at the 2013 World Championships, Enroth made six saves in the first three minutes alone as the action proved to be very stellar right off the bad. The Swedes would get the rest of the chances in the period, with the Tre Kronor forcing Sergei Bobrovsky to make a few good stops in a row to get him warmed up.
Some penalty troubles by the Swedes would result in a Russian goal. First, yet another too-many-men penalty would hurt Sweden, only to have Elias Lindholm get a questionable tripping penalty to make it a 5-on-3 power-play for Russia. On the power-play, Evgeni Malkin would make a great cross-ice pass right to KHL scoring star Sergei Mozyakin, who, somehow, found a tiny opening under Enroth’s arm and in for the 1-0 goal.
The Russians would score another goal with under five minutes to go, a controversial one if you were to ask the Swedes. After Vladimir Tarasenko took a shot at Enroth’s pad, Sergei Shirokov made his presence known by jamming the puck past the goal line just in time before the ref’s whistled the play dead. Sweden thought the whistle came first, but after a quick review, it was determined that the goal was good enough and that the Russians would take the 2-0 lead.
It took just one shot in the second period for the Russians to take the 3-0 advantage. After Nikolai Kulemin took the puck away from a Swedish attacker, he set up Malkin on an undetected breakaway, beating Enroth for Russia’s third goal, ending Enroth’s night in favour of Anders Nilsson.
Despite the early goal, the Swedes weren’t ready to just give up after a strong tournament. The Tre Kronor would get one when John Klingberg took a shot from the point after receiving a pass from Anton Lander and beat a screened Sergei Bobrovsky, who didn’t even flinch on the play.
By the end of the period, Sweden would finish with the 13-8 shot advantage. For the Swedes, they have only finished outside of the quarter-finals twice since 2000, with a sixth place finish in 2012 being their most recent finish outside the top four. Heading into the third period down two goals seemed like an impossible task against the Russians, but the Swedes were looking forward to the challenge.
Whenever a good play was made in the game, it almost always guaranteed a point from at least one of Klingberg, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Anton Lander. So when Lander scored on a great shot off of a rebound while standing all alone from the right face-off dot, it was fitting that the other two would have something to do with it. For OEL, the Arizona Coyotes defenseman came into the game with 11 points in seven games, tied for second in overall tournament scoring after Canada’s Jason Spezza moved to first with 13 points earlier in the day.
With five minutes to go, the Swedes would the game up at three after finally hitting their full potential. On this play, Lander would get another point after his shot was tipped right in front of the net by Loui Eriksson, who would score his fourth goal of the tournament to tie the game up at three.
26 seconds later, however, the Russians got one back. This time, Malkin would his third goal of the tournament, skating around the back of the Swedish net before sending it towards Nilsson, only to have Ekman-Larsson tip the puck in his own net with his skate to give the Russians the 4-3 lead late. Malkin would grab his fourth point of the game with 1:47 left when Vladimir Tarasenko scored an empty netter, getting tripped on the play but was still able to get the puck over the goal line. The Swedes looked for a few more chances before the final buzzer, but when it was all said and done, the Russians would take the 5-3 victory and advance to the next round.
With the win, the Russians will face the Americans for the second time in the tournament. During the preliminary round, the Americans took down the Russians 4-2 after great performances from Seth Jones and Jack Campbell. This time around, the Russians will have their full lineup PLUS Alex Ovechkin, with a spot in the gold medal game for both teams on the line.
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