The final game of the 2014 World Junior Championship was one for the ages as Scandinavian neighbors, Sweden and Finland, battled through 60 minutes of regulation and nearly 10 minutes of overtime, before Finland scored the golden goal to win.
The Finns opened the scoring when Preds prospect Saku Maenalanen connected with Esa Lindell just 28 seconds into the opening period. The assist was Maenalanen’s fourth assist and 10th point (6g-4a) of the tournament.
The 1-0 margin would hold until the 7:53 mark of the middle period when Lucas Wallmark scored on the power play for the Swedes.
It only took 45 seconds for Maenalanen, a 2013 fifth-round selection, to pull the Finns back in front with his tournament-leading seventh goal.
As the Finns play broke down in the Swedish end, Maenalanen snuck around the back of the net and was left wide open just outside of the crease. Chicago prospect Teuvo Teravainen fired a pass through the crease and Maenalanen buried the feed.
Maenalanen’s goal stood as the difference maker until late in the final frame as Suomi clamped down on the Swedish attack, but the Finns found themselves in penalty trouble throughout the third period.
After committing three straight penalties early in the third, the Swedes’ Christian Djoos fired a seeing-eye puck through multiple Finnish defenders with less than 10 minutes remaining for another man-advantage goal for the host nation.
The score would remain tied through the final buzzer, as extra time would be needed for just the third time in the 2014 rendition of the World Juniors. It was also the seventh gold medal game to go to extra time in tournament history.
In the four-on-four overtime period, the teams traded quality chances for 10 minutes before Buffalo Sabres defensive prospect Rasmus Ristolainen, who caused most of Finland’s penalty trouble in the third, drove the net and jammed a puck past Oscar Dansk for the win.
The gold medal is Finland’s first since 1998, and just their second medal in the last seven years.
Despite the overtime loss for the host country, it was back-to-back silver medals and medals in three straight tournaments for Tre Kronor, after they lost in the finals to the United States in last year’s tournament.
Finland’s goaltender, Juuse Saros, a Nashville fourth-round pick in 2013 Entry Draft, was the difference for Suomi in the re-match between these two teams. The 5-10, 186-pound netminder turned aside 30-of-32 shots in regulation and seven-of-seven in the overtime session en route to being named Finland’s Best Player of the Gold Medal Game, and a Media All-Star Team selection.
Despite missing out on the all-star teams, Maenalanen finished at the tournament’s top goal scorer. The gold medal will also hang around the neck of Preds defensive prospect Mikko Vainonen, who picked up an assist on the golden goal.
Preds forward and Swedish captain, Filip Forsberg, who posted the second-most points in the tournament (4g-8a-12pts), was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Directorate’s Top Forward.
He is the first Swedish-born player to be named MVP since the awards began in 2004. The Nashville Predators forward also joined Saros on the Media All-Star Team, becoming the only repeat player to be named to the All-Star Team, having been named to the 2013 edition as well.
With Forsberg’s MVP award, he makes it back-to-back MVPs for Preds players in IIHF competition, after defenseman Roman Josi was named MVP at the World Championship in May 2013.
The IIHF also announced on Sunday that the Malmo tournament was the best attended World Junior Championship ever hosted in Europe with 144,268 spectators attending the 31 total games.