TORONTO - In need of a win to help bolster its chances at advancing at the World Cup of Hockey, Finland ran into an old foe and a familiar face.
After missing Sweden's first game of the tournament due to an illness, Henrik Lundqvist stepped back in the crease and stopped all 36 shots Finland took to hand the Finns their second loss in as many games, a 2-0 defeat.
"It's frustrating," Mikael Granlund said. "We played a great hockey game, and we didn't get the result. That kind of is a little disappointing right now."
Played at a dramatically different pace than Finland's opening game against Team North America, the Scandinavian rivals played a more defensive style, but Finland was able to muster significantly more offense than it did to open the tournament.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask, also making his first start of the tournament for Finland in favor of a healthy Pekka Rinne, stopped 26 Swedish shots.
A few saves were the difference, as Lundqvist and Sweden managed to keep Finland off the scoreboard. On a power play late in the second period, Patrik Laine one-timed a shot from the left circle that Lundqvist was able to snare with his glove.
"Tonight I felt we had a lot of, especially toward the end, we were getting traffic in front," Mikko Koivu said. "We were doing the right things in order to score goals, but he was the difference tonight, and we just couldn't get past him."
Koivu and Granlund, who were the top two Finnish forwards in ice time in Finland's opening game, again topped the usage chart, Koivu logging 21:02, and Granlund 17:47 (Granlund's ice time was third among Finnish forwards).
In the first period, Granlund used a nifty toe-drag move to deke past defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who was forced to trip him.
Finland was able to generate a few good looks on the ensuing power play, including a power move by Koivu from below the goal line, but Lundqvist stood his ground.
Koivu's best chance of the game came in the third period with the teams skating four a side. Olli Maata found him with a pass on the doorstep from below the goal line, but his one-time shot was kicked out by Lundqvist.
"I believed we could get one," Koivu said. "I thought we got close. We got some quality chances. We did a lot better in the third period getting in front of him more, and getting the rebounds. But somehow he found those pucks."
Finland tried a few different things to get some offense going. While Koivu and Granlund remained on a line, Joonas Donskoi, playing on the right wing, got flipped for Teuvo Teravainen.
Granlund was awarded the third star of the game.
Key Moment: When the Sedins begin to work their magic in the offensive zone, it's difficult to win the puck back. In the second period, some Wonder-Twin chemistry led to the game's opening goal.
Finland found that out the hard way, when Daniel and Henrik went to work, and the latter snuck a pass through the crease, and onto the stick of a charging Anton Stralman, who made no mistake one-timing the puck past Tuukka Rask.
The Skinny: Finland now officially needs help if it is to advance past the round robin stage of the World Cup.
The following needs to happen for Finland to make it out of Group B:
- Finland defeats Russia in regulation
- Sweden defeats North America in regulation
- Finland, Russia, and North America all finish with two points, and Finland advances on goal-differential (after Tuesday, Finland is a -5, Russia is even, and North America is a +2)
So, Finland has not been mathematically eliminated, but its semifinal fate is no longer in its own control. Tuesday was a much better showing from the Finns than its opening loss against Team North America, which bodes well, but Finland will need some help if it is to keep playing past the round robin stage.
"We'll see how it's going to be tomorrow first off, and then see if we still have a chance to make it," Koivu said. "I can't really talk about it right now - we just lost the game - but that's the story right now, that we have to wait, and hopefully Team Sweden can get another win tomorrow, and that will give us a chance."