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Sweden 7, Czech Republic 3

NHL.com @NHL

TURIN, Italy (AP) - Tell the Swedish post office to start redesigning that old Peter Forsberg stamp - the men's hockey team is one win from another gold medal.

Forsberg set up a goal 34 seconds into the game and Sweden scored four times in the second period to defeat the world champion Czech Republic 7-3 in an Olympic semifinal on Friday night.

The Swedes will face Russia or Finland on Sunday for the title. They're guaranteed an Olympic medal for the first time since taking gold in 1994, when Forsberg scored the winning goal to beat Canada in a gold-medal shootout.

Soon after the Lillehammer Games, Forsberg's face showed up on the upper left-hand corner of Swedish letters everywhere.

Daniel Alfredsson remembers watching his future Olympic teammate on TV with his parents.

Greatest moment in Swedish hockey history?

"Yeah," Daniel Alfredsson said, "especially the way it ended ... They made a stamp of it for a reason."

Alfredsson and P.J. Axelsson each had a goal and assist for Sweden, which was off and running after Forsberg fed Fredrik Modin for a score on the first shot of the game.

Earning at least a silver medal will help the Swedes erase the bitter memories of the 2002 Salt Lake City Games when they were upset by Belarus and knocked out in the quarterfinal round for the second straight time.

"We came out hard on the ice and showed them we wanted to win," Forsberg said.

The Swedes charged from all angles and used brilliant passing that sliced the offensive zone from end to end and side to side. Even though both rosters are full of NHL stars, the European style shone through on the large Olympic playing surface.

Henrik Sedin, Christian Backman, Jorgen Jonsson, and Alfredsson scored in the second period for Sweden, which built a 5-1 lead over its lethargic opponents.

"I think that we probably had our best first period," Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin said. "We've had so many ifs and buts in this tournament and we have not had strong starts, so today we focused on trying to get an early lead."

Ales Hemsky and Vinny Prospal scored 45 seconds apart midway through the middle period to give the Czechs life and hope. But Alfredsson snuffed that out when he found the net from the slot with one knee on the ice with a minute remaining in the period to make it 6-3.

Sweden coach Bengt Ake Gustafsson was widely criticized when he suggested his club would be better off losing its final preliminary round game to get an easier quarterfinal matchup against Switzerland.

His thinking turned out to be right as Sweden easily handled the Swiss 6-2 on Wednesday while the Czechs were in a grinding battle with neighboring Slovakia that wasn't settled until an empty-net goal in the final seconds.

Milan Hnilicka, a former NHL player, got his second straight start in the Czech net over Nashville's Tomas Vokoun but the move didn't pay off this time.

In 100 previous minutes in the tournament, Hnilicka yielded only one goal on 29 shots. Yet he was driven to the bench 7:54 into the second period when Jonsson deftly deflected a pass from his brother, Kenny, into the net.

Hnilicka made only 15 saves on 20 shots before being replaced by Vokoun, who led the Czechs to the world title last year and was expected to get the bulk of the playing time after Dominik Hasek was injured in the opening minutes of the tournament.

Hasek was in goal when the Czechs won gold in 1998, the first time the NHL halted its season for the Olympics.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves to earn the victory. He wasn't really challenged by his four New York Rangers teammates in the Czech lineup, who combined for two assists - one each by Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka.

The scoring started quickly when Forsberg crossed a pass in front of Sundin and onto the stick of Modin, who one-timed a shot that sailed cleanly beyond Hnilicka.

The Czechs answered less than 3 minutes later when Filip Kuba fired Martin Straka's drop pass off the left post. The drive ricocheted against the underside of Lundqvist's leg and careened back into the net at 3:11.

Sweden grabbed the lead back with 6:23 left in the opening period after a pair of Detroit Red Wings defensemen set up Axelsson's third goal of the tournament.

Axelsson completed the play when he deflected in Nicklas Lidstrom's left-point shot while he was surrounded by four red jerseys with his back to the net. Detroit rookie Niklas Kronwall earned the second assist, one day after being added to Sweden's roster to replace Mattias Ohlund, who broke a rib Wednesday against Switzerland.

Sedin converted a rebound of his twin brother Daniel's shot 1:16 into the second, and Backman made it 4-1 at 3:54.

Tomas Holmstrom closed the scoring with 3:55 remaining in the game, taking a pass from Henrik Zetterberg and beating Vokoun.

The Czechs will play the loser of the Russia-Finland game for the bronze medal on Saturday.

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