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Canada looks for rare gold repeat facing Sweden

by John Kreiser


When: Sunday 7 a.m. (NBC, CBC)

Where: Bolshoy Ice Dome

What's at stake: Canada is trying to become the first nation to repeat as Olympic champion since the Soviet Union won in 1984 and '88 (the Unified Team, made up of much of the former USSR, also won in 1992). Sweden, which won in 2006, is aiming for its second gold medal in eight years. Each nation is coming off a one-goal victory against a major rival in its semifinal game.

Canada: The Canadians managed one goal in their semifinal against the United States. But that goal, by Jamie Benn in the second period, was enough to give Canada a 1-0 victory thanks to a stifling defense and 31 saves by Carey Price.

Canada has scored 14 times in five games in Sochi and is plus-11 because it's surrendered three goals. The Canadians shut down the speedy Americans, who entered the semifinals averaging five goals per game.

"I think we've been good defensively the whole time," Canada coach Mike Babcock said. "It's hard to get real good players to be committed as our group is defensively, and yet we haven't scored. No one seems to care. It doesn't matter. You just want another opportunity."

That opportunity will come against Sweden, which has been nearly as stingy as Canada and is the only team that has won all five of its games in regulation. Babcock said he hopes his team will be able to turn a few more of its scoring chances into goals.

"We've had unbelievable opportunities and still haven't finished," Babcock said. "We're going to finish. We just hope we don't run out of time."

Sweden: The Swedes haven't let anything deter them on the way to the gold-medal game. They've overcome injuries, including one to captain Henrik Zetterberg that left them a man short, and have found enough offense to go 5-0-0-0, including a 2-1 victory against Finland in their semifinal game Friday.

Sweden has flown under the radar for most of the tournament, but forward Daniel Alfredsson said that's not a bad thing.

"We've been told that we're kind of up there but not really with Canada, Russia and the U.S.," Alfredsson said. "We got into this tournament and we've played pretty good but not great, and everyone has looked for us to be better. We came through with a huge game [against Finland] when we needed to and that's a great feeling. We definitely deserved to win, and we're going to enjoy this for a few hours and then we have one big test left. We want to make sure we go home with the gold and make Sunday's game our best yet."

Like Canada, Sweden has done it with defense and goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 shots Friday, allowing a goal to Olli Jokinen.

"I think we played really, really well [defensively]," said Sweden defenseman Erik Karlsson, whose second-period power-play goal against Finland broke a 1-1 tie. "I think it won us the game. We were really sound in the neutral zone and the defensive zone and took away their speed as much as we could. We really didn't give them any of the quality scoring chances that we've been giving up earlier in the tournament. [Lundqvist] has been playing unbelievable for us as well. In that part we feel pretty confident."

What’s next: One team will go home happy, one will leave disappointed. But by late in the week, all will be back with their club teams.

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