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Swedes rally to beat Russia 4-3 in OT

by Aaron Vickers
CALGARY -- How Swede it is to be Joakim Nordstrom.

Nordstrom scored the game winner at 2:46 of overtime to lift Sweden to a 4-3 come-from-behind Saturday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, clinching first place in Group A at the World Junior Championship and earning a bye directly into the semifinals.

After the Swedes overcame a 3-0 deficit to force overtime on Max Friberg's goal with 40 seconds left in regulation, Friberg lugged the puck up the ice from his own zone before lifting a backhand saucer pass onto the stick of Patrik Nemeth. He one-timed a blast that was deflected by Nordstrom over the blocker of Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevski to give Sweden the victory.

"Friberg passes the puck up to Nemeth on the blue line and he fires the shot and he almost hit me in the face," Nordstrom said. "I just let it hit my stick instead of my face and it went under the crossbar and in."

The goal had to survive a review to make sure Nordstrom's stick was under the crossbar.

"I didn't know that for sure," Nordstrom said. "I was just waiting for the call. Of course (it was) a big relief … now game-winning goal. I didn't know where it hit me. I knew it hit my stick, but I didn't know if I was over the crossbar or not. That puck took us straight to the semifinal now."

The defending champion Russians, who had allowed just one goal in winning their first three games, will play the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.

Russia led 3-0 entering the third period after scoring three times in the opening 20 minutes. But Oscar Klefbom finally got the Swedes on the board when he fired a point shot over Vasilevski's glove 3:17 into the period, snapping the Russian goalie's tournament shutout streak at 163:17.

Sweden kept firing and was rewarded when the rebound of Rickard Rakell's sharp-angled shot went off the stick of a Russian defender and behind Vasilevski with 7:41 remaining, bringing the Swedes within a goal.

With Alexander Khokhlachev off for hooking in the dying minutes of the game, the Swedes nearly tied it. Captain Johan Larsson, parked on the doorstep, almost had Sweden's third but couldn't slide the puck under Vasilevski with four minutes remaining. Seconds later, the Russian goalie turned aside William Karlsson's one-timer.

With Sweden pressing, Yevgeni Kuznetsov got behind the Swedish defense and went in alone on goalie Johan Gustafsson, who denied the Russian captain with his pad to keep it a 3-2 game with 1:42 remaining.

"It was a good feeling when I heard the whistle and I saw the puck underneath me," Gustafsson said.

The save turned out to be huge when Jonas Brodin took a shot from the point that was deflected by Friberg in the slot and into the net for his seventh goal of the tournament, tying the game 3-3 and forcing overtime. It was Sweden's 53rd shot at Vasilevski.

"Every player just believed in the team and strategy so we know that the hockey game is played in 60 minutes plus overtime so we just wanted to keep fighting the whole game," Nordstrom said.

Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg put the win on the shoulders of his players.

"We have so many leading players on the team, I don't need to say so much to the team," Ronnberg said. "We have true character in those guys. They are the guys playing it."

Sweden spotted Russia a 2-0 lead with two quick goals in seven seconds.

A turnover at the Swedish blue line led to Nail Yakupov streaking down to the crease before feeding a pass to Ignat Zemchenko for his second of the tournament just 2:09 into the game. Off the ensuing faceoff, Yaroslav Kosov streaked into the Swedish zone and snapped a shot that slithered through Gustafsson to make it 2-0.

It was almost 3-0 before the four-minute mark after Nikita Gusev got behind Sweden's defense. The Russian sniper deked to his backhand but was denied by the pad of Gustafsson.

Sweden thought it had cut the lead in half a short time later. Rackell's centering feed hit Mika Zibanejad in the crease and went into the net, but the play was reviewed and ruled no goal.

Russia extended its lead to 3-0 at 13:33 with a shorthanded goal. Ivan Telegin deflected a pass at his own blue line, caught up with the puck and went one-on-one with Gustafsson, beating him five-hole.

Sweden came out firing in the second, outshooting Russia 17-8, but came closest to scoring without recording a shot on goal. On the power play, the puck took a bounce off the end boards and onto the stick of Friberg, who fired the puck short side on Vasilevski but hit the post midway through the period.

The loss forces Russia to take a longer route to the medal round, a road that leads through the Czechs, who finished third in Group B.

"It's difficult to say right now how we're going to win," Russian coach Valeri Bragin said through a translator. "They have a really good goalie and we played against them in the pre-tournament games. They play an aggressive style. This year the Czech team is not looking like it was last year or years before. It's a good opponent."
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