Special teams leads Sweden past Finland at WJC

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The Swedes beat the Finns, 6-3, to advance to the semi-finals, but a more important score is 12-0. That’s the difference in power-play goals scored this year.

The Swedes, of course, have the 12, and the Finns, incredibly, failed to score even one goal with the man advantage over the course of five games.

The Swedes will now play Russia on Sunday, and the Finns head home, their gold medal a year ago a distant and fading memory. It’s the ninth straight appearance in the semi-finals for the consistently successful Swedes.

“Our power play is working really well,” said William Nylander, the players of the game with two assists and now tied for the scoring lead with teammate Oskar Lindblom, both of whom have nine points. “We have a lot of confidence now. We beat Russia last time, so we just have to refresh the bodies and get ready for the game against Russia.”

“We had zero power-play goals the entire tournament,” said Finnish defenceman Mika Ilvonen, “and our play just wasn’t good enough today against a team like Sweden. We had two, five-on-three chances against us, and they killed us.”

Indeed, three of Sweden’s goals came with extra men, and the last was shot into the empty net with 4.8 seconds remaining.

Sweden spread the scoring evenly, five players recording two points. Lucas Wallmark had two goals for the victors. Jusso Ikonen had a goal and an assist for the Finns.

The first period was as cautious as both teams tried to skate their way into the game. There were a few good chances, though, but none found the back of the net. Air Canada Centre fans were thrilled to see William Nylander skate in on a partial breakaway, but his deke and quick shot on the rebound were both rebuffed by Ville Husso.

The Finns took advantage of a couple of defensive miscues to get two close-in chances. Gustav Forsling lost the puck in his own end, giving Otto Rauhala a chance, but he missed. Later in the period, Mikko Rantanen had a point-blank shot but couldn’t beat Linus Soderstrom.

The shooters were as sharp as the goalies were rusty in a second period which saw six goals and many more great scoring chances. The Finns got things started when Jusso Ikonen had a long breakaway and beat Soderstrom under the blocker at 1:44.

But the Swedes then took over, scoring three times in a four-minute stretch, all on similar plays. The Finns took two quick penalties, allowing the potent point shot of Gustav Forsling to make it a 1-1 tie when he drilled a long shot past Husso with a two-man advantage.

Just 47 seconds later, still up a man, Lucas Wallmark wired a high shot past Husso to give the Swedes a second power-play goal. Then, at 8:11, Robin Norell’s shot was tipped in front by Adam Brodecki, beating the Finnish goalie on another play from the right side, making it 3-1.

But the Finns fought back and got a goal of their own off the rush from a long shot. Ikonen hit Mikko Rantanen with a long pass across the ice, and Rantanen snapped a hard shot over Soderstrom’s glove at 9:54 to cut the Swedish lead in half.

Aleksi Mustonen then scored a beautiful goal to tie the score at 15:49 with teams playing four skaters a side. Teammate Kasperi Kapanen’s long shot was kicked out generously by Soderstrom, and Mustonen fought off defenceman Sebastian Aho and roofed a close-in shot to tie the score.

“Guys were raising their voices in the dressing room [after the second period],” Ilvonen said. “We realized we could win and we were close, but then penalties in the third destroyed us.”

The Swedes got a third power-play goal early in the third on another five-on-three, this time Adrain Kempe burying a loose puck to the back side of Husso’s goal.

Finland had a four-minute power play later in the period but misfired time and again, and soon after Oskar Lindblom converted another pass from Nylander to put the game out of reach.

“We can’t win the tournament if we don’t score on the power play,” Rantanen added. “We didn’t, and we lost. It’s that simple.”

“That was huge,” Nylander acknowledged. “They could have scored a quick one and still had another two minutes, but we didn’t let them and we scored soon after that. It was a huge kill for us.”

Source: Andrew Podnieks – worldjuniors2015.com

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