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Sweden advances to gold-medal game

by Andrea Nelson / Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings teammates Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson work to clear the crease in front of Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist during Friday's semifinals. (Photo by Getty Images)

Sweden won gold in 2006, and will play for gold again in 2014.

An early favorite to win the tournament, the Swedes overcame injuries to captain Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin to secure an Olympic medal for their country. Only time will tell whether it will be gold or silver.

“We’re getting closer and closer,” Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin told NBC Sports Net’s Pierre McGuire. “I think we’re going the right way. Our first game was our worst game and this was our best game so that’s a good sign. We got a long way to go but it’s going to be a good matchup in the finals.”

The semifinal matchup between Nordic rivals Sweden and Finland didn’t disappoint, but the Finns got off to a rough start before the puck even dropped. According to Finnish officials, starting goaltender Tukka Rask would not be available for the game due to the flu. The Bruins goalie was a key part of Finland’s success in the tournament, making 37 saves in the country’s 3-1 victory over Russia Wednesday and stopping 71 of 78 shots through three games.

Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who allowed one goal in Finland’s 6-1 victory over Norway in the preliminary tournament, replaced Rask in goal.

The Swedes killed three penalties, including a 5-on-3 advantage, to help secure a scoreless first period. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 10 saves in the first 20 minutes, including a glove deflection on forward Leo Komarov’s shot that was quickly cleared from the crease by Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall.

“(He) makes the save when you need him to make a save and that’s all you can ask for from a goalie,” Sedin said.

Finland struck first in the second period, when Winnipeg’s Olli Jokinen chased the puck down after an icing call was waived, beating Lundqvist from a sharp angle. At the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Lundqvist robbed Jokinen of a goal with less than 30 seconds left in the gold-medal game to secure Sweden’s 3-2 victory over Finland. Eight years later, Jokinen made sure his shot didn’t miss his mark, giving Finland a one-goal advantage.

The Swedes tied the game five minutes later when Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson connected with Loui Eriksson, and the Bruins forward buried his shot past Lehtonen.

Defenseman Erik Karlsson scored the game-winning goal on a power play late in the period, finding the back of the net from long range. Alexander Steen fed Karlsson as he worked toward the middle of the ice, and the defenseman netted the one-timer from the blue line. The goal tied Karlsson with the USA’s Phil Kessel as the tournament’s scoring leader (four goals, four assists).

“I thought our power play was obviously key in the whole tournament,” Sedin said. “Get the big second goal and yeah it’s a tight second game for sure.”

Five Wings, including Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Daniel Alfredsson, Gustav Nyquist and Jonas Gustavsson, advance with Sweden to the gold-medal game on Sunday. Kronwall and Alfredsson will be competing for their second gold medal, while their three other NHL teammates will look to collect their first Olympic medal.

Sweden will face the winner of the second semifinal contest between the USA and Canada (12 p.m. EST) and Finland the loser of that matchup in the bronze-medal game on Saturday.

Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea

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