-- Sweden waited until it had more on the line than just a couple of points in the standings to strut its gold medal stuff out for the hockey world to see.
With rival Finland on the opposite side in a rematch of the 2006 gold-medal game, the Swedes played their strongest game of the tournament. They dominated on special teams and coasted behind another perfect outing by Henrik Lundqvist to a 3-0 victory in the final game of a wild day of rivalries here at Canada Hockey Place.
Sweden (3-0-0-0) won Group C and falls in as the second seed in the quarterfinals behind upstart Team USA. It has two days off before playing the winner of Tuesday's game between Slovakia and Norway.
The Swedes are on the same side of the bracket as Canada and Russia, but they won't have to go through both hockey superpowers on their way to the gold-medal game because if Canada beats Germany it will play Russia in the quarterfinals.
By virtue of goal differential, Finland also earned a bye into the quarterfinals as the fourth seed and will play either Latvia or the Czech Republic on Wednesday. The Finns finished the preliminary round plus-6 in and the fifth-seeded Czechs were only plus-3.
"Yeah, we're happy with the first three games, but on Wednesday (in the quarterfinals) it doesn't really matter. You have to start over," Lundqvist told NHL.com. "Your mindset has to be: 'The first five minutes.' And you just have to be so solid, you can't really afford to take too many penalties or make many mistakes.
"We feel good. We should feel good. At the same time, on Wednesday, it's just down to one game. It doesn't matter what you've done in the past."
The Swedes owe Sunday's win to their special teams, which were outstanding.
Forward Loui Eriksson converted on a pair of power-play goals and Sweden was 7-for-7 on the penalty kill, a remarkable feat considering Finland had the best power play in the tournament (6-for-12) coming into the game.
Sweden had to kill off five penalties in the second period, including a pair of 5-on-3s totaling 1:39.
"We had a chance to practice the PK," Henrik Zetterberg
joked to NHL.com.
The Swedes looked good. Their penalty killers, led by Zetterberg up front, clogged up the shooting lanes and kept the Finns to the outside. It was the perfect way to defend a dangerous power play.
"We watched some of their films, what they were trying to do, and our guys just did an amazing job being in the shooting lanes," Sweden assistant coach Tommy Albelin told NHL.com. "When it got past our guys in the shooting lanes, Henrik (Lundqvist) was there to stop the pucks. There wasn't a whole lot of rebounds laying around either, which is another reason why we were pretty good."
Sweden sent the dagger into the Finns less than four minutes after killing off their second 5-on-3. Eriksson scored his second power-play goal of the game with 1:52 remaining by using his long reach and even longer stick to wrap the puck around Miikka Kiprusoff's outstretched left skate, squeezing the puck inside the left post.
"Yeah, I got a long stick today and he almost saved it there, but I got it through," Eriksson told NHL.com. "There was about an inch."
Lundqvist was perfect against 20 shots for his second shutout of the tournament in as many games. He stopped 21 shots in Sweden's opener Wednesday night against Germany for a 2-0 win. Jonas Gustavsson played against Belarus on Friday.
"We had a lot of respect for their power play, but we did an amazing job on the PK and that was the difference," Lundqvist said. "That was key for us, that we could kill all those minutes. They had a lot of opportunities on their power play but we made it tough for them to take what they wanted."
Sweden took advantage of Finland's discipline problems in the first period when Eriksson scored from the low slot 6:41 into the game. Nicklas Backstrom, who had a goal and an assist, sent him a saucer pass and after missing on the first attempt, Eriksson whacked the puck past Kiprusoff with Niko Kapanen out of position behind him.
"The Swedes are a very good team when they have the lead," Finland coach Jukka Jalonen said. "The game was over I would say after the second period."
Backstrom made it 2-0 early in the second period when he roofed a shot from the high slot over Kiprusoff's catching glove. Daniel Sedin sent him a perfect pass from behind the goal line.
"I think this is when the tournament really started," Zetterberg said. "We wanted to have a good game, a 60-minute game and we did. We're looking forward to the quarterfinal now."
It wasn't a totally clean night for the Swedes. Patric Hornqvist left the game late in the second period after he got elbowed hard in the face by Joni Pitkanen. Hornqvist had to be helped off the ice and he didn't return, but neither did Pitkanen.
The Finnish defenseman received a five-minute major for checking to the head and neck area and a game misconduct. As a result of the game misconduct, he is suspended for Finland's quarterfinal-round game.
Hornqvist is also questionable, Sweden coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson said.
"He's got to go through some medical things (Monday)," Gustafsson said. "He's not in too bad shape, but if we played (Monday) he wouldn't be able to play. But, we have two days."
1 2 0 - 3FIN
0 0 0 - 0First Period Scoring:
1. SWE, Eriksson (Backstrom, Johansson) 6:41 (PPG).First Period Penalties:
H. Sedin SWE (tripping) 0:31, Timonen FIN (interference) 4:58, Pitkanen FIN (tripping) 6:07, S. Koivu FIN (hooking) 16:23, Hornqvist SWE (tripping) 19:01.Second Period Scoring:
2. SWE, Backstrom (D. Sedin) 4:19; 3. SWE, Eriksson (Franzen, Backstrom) 18:08 (PPG).Second Period Penalties:
Forsberg SWE (holding) 5:37, Lidstrom SWE (tripping) 11:14, Franzen SWE (tripping) 12:42, Ohlund SWE (interference) 13:36, Lepisto FIN (tripping) 16:25, Pitkanen FIN (checking to the head and neck area, misconduct, game misconduct) 19:11.Third Period Scoring:
No scoring.Third Period Penalties:
Tallinder SWE (cross-checking) 13:26.SHOTS ON GOALSWE
16 8 8 - 32FIN
5 10 5 - 20Goaltenders (goals-shots against):
SWE: Lundqvist (W, 0-20); FIN: Kiprusoff (L, 3-32).Power plays (goals-chances):
SWE: 2-5; FIN: 0-7.