There will be a new champion at the IIHF World Championship this year and an all-Nordic final. There's already been a goal for the ages.
Friday's semifinals in Bratislava, Slovakia, saw Sweden knock off the defending champion Czech Republic 5-2 behind a pair of goals from Patrik Berglund, then Mikael Granlund contributed his highlight-reel score to Finland's 3-0 victory over Russia.
Sweden faces Finland in the gold-medal game on Sunday. It's the fourth time they've met to decide the World Championship, with Sweden winning in 1992 and 1998, while Finland won its lone gold in 1995 on Sweden's home ice. Sweden also defeated Finland for gold in the 2006 Turin Olympics.
Sweden 5, Czech Republic 2
After falling behind early in the second period, Berglund started the comeback for Tre Kronor, which also got goals from Mikael Backlund, Jimmie Ericsson and Marcus Kruger, and a strong game in net from Viktor Fasth. Sweden avenged a semifinal loss to the Czech Republic in 2010 in which they gave up a goal late in regulation and then lost in overtime.
"I don't think was an upset," Sweden's Robert Nilsson told the IIHF website. "They had a lot of good chances, but we were on the right side of the puck, and our goalie was outstanding, as always."
Patrik Elias scored both goals for the Czech Republic, which opened the scoring early in the second period when a pass from Milan Michalek deflected off Fasth's stick, off the stick of Elias and into the net.
Sweden came back to take a 2-1 lead by the end of 40 minutes. Berglund drew them even with a power-play goal and Backlund was responsible for the go-ahead score when he skated down the right wing and snapped a shot that went over the far shoulder of goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Ericsson scored off a 2-on-1 rush with Backlund at 8:07 of the third and Kruger scored off a scramble in front as Sweden opened up a 4-1 advantage. While they would yield a second goal to Elias, the victory was salted away on Berglund's empty-netter.
"It was a lot of fun," forward Magnus Paajarvi said. "We executed our game plan well. We didn’t give them too much, except for the last goal they got, which was a turnover by us. Other than that we played pretty well, and we’re looking forward to Sunday."
Finland 3, Russia 0
Thanks to the flawless goaltending of Petri Vehanen, who finished with 30 saves, it would only take one goal for Finland to win on this day. But what a first goal it was.
The game was scoreless early in the second period when the teams set for a faceoff to the left of the Russia net. Off the draw the puck rolled into the corner, where Russia's Dmitri Kalinin retrieved it. However, Granlund swept in, took the puck away from him and skated behind the Russia net. At full speed, he scooped the puck onto the blade of his stick, and with the puck suction-cupped on, he brought his stick up and used the crossbar to scrape the puck off. It fell behind a stunned Russian goalie Konstantin Barulin and gave Finland a 1-0 lead at the 5:13 mark.
"Wow," Finnish alternate captain Lasse Kukkonen told the IIHF website. "That’s all I can say. I knew he could do it. He's done it before in Finland but I didn't think he could do it at the World Championship. He's amazing."
Finland added on in the third period on goals by Jani Lajunen and Jarkko Immonen, the latter of whom drew an assist on Granlund's goal and took over the point-scoring lead from Berglund of Sweden. The two are tied for first in the tournament with 8 goals.
Lajunen's goal came 7:40 into the third when he shot the puck into the Russia zone off a rush and it caromed off the back boards and right into the slot, where he backhanded it into the net. Immonen capitalized on a power play at 9:15 as he converted off a pass from Backlund.
"We're very happy to be among the best two teams in the world," Finnish coach Jukka Jalonen said. "We deserved it, as we played a very good game. Our power play worked well and our penalty kill worked well. That's the reason we won today."
Alex Ovechkin played in his fourth game for the tournament for Russia and is still looking for his first point. Ovechkin was also penalized twice for slashing.