SOCHI -- Victory. Vindication. Another gold medal.
Canada got it all Sunday at Bolshoy Ice Dome in a clinical 3-0 victory against Sweden in the gold-medal game of the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby scored their first goals of the tournament, and Carey Price made 24 saves, to help Canada become the first repeat gold-medal winner since the Soviet Union/Unified Team won three in a row from 1984-92.
Price didn't give up a goal in the final 164:19 of the tournament. He was named the best goaltender of the tournament by the IIHF, and led all goaltenders with a 0.59 goals-against average and .972 save percentage.
Chris Kunitz also scored his first Olympic goal in the third period.
"For us to be able to execute on the biggest stage and play the way we did, and there was lots of complaints early that we didn't score, I thought we were dominant," Canada coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we played great."
Sweden was forced to play without its top center, Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals, who, according to team officials, was suspended by the International Olympic Committee because of a failed drug test. Backstrom said he was tested Wednesday after the quarterfinal win against Slovenia.
Backstrom said he has been taking an over-the-counter allergy medication, Zyrtec-D, for the past seven years, but the level of pseudoephedrine found in his urine was deemed too high by the IOC.
The Capitals released a statement saying Backstrom has been taking the allergy medication intermittently for seven years, including this season, and the medicine had been approved by the Swedish national team.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement that the banned substance Backstrom tested positive for was not on the NHL list of banned substances and it likely would not affect his playing status with the Capitals.
"Subject to confirmation of the facts as we understand them, and given the fact that the substance is neither prohibited in the NHL nor was used in an improper manner here, we do not anticipate there being any consequences relative to Nicklas' eligibility to participate in games for the Washington Capitals," Daly said.
Sweden already was playing without its initial No. 1 center, Henrik Zetterberg, who withdrew from the tournament after one game due to a herniated disk. Another top center, Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks, was sidelined before the Olympics began due to a rib injury.
"If we're going to compete with Canada we need all the best players here and unfortunately we have some injuries, and of course Backstrom, what happened with him, that affected us," Sweden coach Par Marts said. "It's only human beings sitting in there."
For all the scrutinizing of the roster and the overanalyzing and debating of the decisions Babcock has made since the team arrived in Russia two weeks ago, Canada won its second straight gold medal and third in the past four Olympics without ever trailing in the tournament and giving up three goals.
Canada executive director Steve Yzerman said he believes it is the best defensive performance ever by a Canadian team. Babcock said it was because Canada never abandoned its game plan to attack its opposition in waves, creating offense off its defense and controlling possession as often as it possibly could.
That was the message in August at Canada's Olympic orientation camp and it never changed right on through the tournament.
The Canadians scored 17 goals in six games. They beat Finland, Latvia and the United States by one goal each despite dominating time of possession, chances for and against, and shots on goal in all of the games. Canada had 241 shots on goal in the tournament; it allowed 129.
"When you talk about great defense sometimes we get confused," Babcock said. "Great defense means you play defense fast and you have the puck all the time so you're always on offense. Don't get confused, we outchanced these teams big-time; we didn't score. We were a great offensive team. That's how we coached. That's what we expected. That's what we got. We didn't ask guys to back up.
"The interesting thing for me when I look at this whole scenario is does anybody know who won the scoring race? Does anybody care? Does anybody know who won the gold medal? See ya."
At that point Babcock left the press conference because he was going to walk in the closing ceremonies. He didn't really need to say anything more.
Canada stifled the United States in the semifinals by playing fast and owning the middle of the ice in a 1-0 win. It did the same thing against Sweden, which generated four shots on goal and no second-chance opportunities in the third period.
When he was asked how many second-chance opportunities he thinks Sweden had in the entire game, Price responded, "I would guess less than one."
"We couldn't really break through a brick wall," Sweden forward Loui Eriksson said.
Toews and Crosby, who were part of the gold medal team from the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Stanley Cup champions, answered in the big moment, just as they have done their entire careers. They also scored in the gold-medal game four years ago.
Crosby had been taking heat from media and fans for not scoring in the tournament heading into the gold-medal game, but Babcock said Crosby was a dominant player against the U.S. and Canada.
He gave Canada a 2-0 lead 15:43 into the second period by converting on a breakaway that he created for himself with a smart defensive play at the Sweden blue line.
"You get a chance like that late in the second to know you can go up two, you want to make sure that you make the most of it," Crosby said. "I remember in Vancouver I missed one with a couple minutes left and they ended up tying it. Nice to be able to get that one and get a bit of a cushion."
For the second straight Olympic gold-medal game, Toews gave Canada the lead in the first period. He did it 12:55 into the game when he gained inside position on Sweden forward Patrik Berglund and got his stick down to redirect Jeff Carter's hard pass out of the right circle.
Toews didn't have any goals going into the gold-medal game four years ago either, but he said after winning gold in Vancouver that he could feel it he was going to get one in a big spot. He had that same feeling Sunday.
"I think like the last time it just felt like it was coming," Toews said. "It was a lot like the playoffs last year … I was just sticking with it and trying to find a gritty one, and I knew something was going to land on my tape at some point. Happened to be [Sunday]. It's a pretty good feeling to get one and get our team off to the right start."
Just as he did against the U.S. on Friday, Price had to make a couple of good saves, but he wasn't tested nearly as much as Sweden goalie Henrik Lundqvist (33 saves).
Price, though, had some luck on his side early in the first period, before Canada established the pace with which it wanted to play.
Gustav Nyquist walked in from the right side and rang a close-in shot off the left post. The puck squirted behind Price and danced near the goal line before the Montreal Canadiens goalie contorted his body enough to cover the puck with his glove.
The iron helped Sweden a few minutes later when Canada's Patrice Bergeron rang a shot off the left post. Toews, though, found the back of the net a few shifts after that.
The Swedes never could respond. They didn't stand a chance.
"We're just an amazing team to watch, the way we work together," Toews said. "We were just all over them."
SWE 0 0 0 - 0
CAN 1 1 1 - 3
1. CAN, Toews - (Carter, Weber) 12:55
Penalties – Jo. Ericsson SWE (holding) 14:55, Kunitz CAN (high sticking) 19:47.
2. CAN, Crosby - (unassisted) 15:43
Penalties - Silfverberg SWE (delay of game) 5:46, Berglund SWE (boarding) 17:20.
3. CAN, Kunitz - (unassisted) 9:04
Penalties - Perry CAN (tripping) 10:12.
SHOTS ON GOAL
SWE 11 9 4 - 24
CAN 12 11 13 - 36
Goaltenders (saves-shots against)
- SWE: Lundqvist (L, 33-36); CAN: Price (W, 24-24)
Power plays (goals-chances)
- SWE: 0-2; CAN: 0-3