2014 Winter Olympics: Sweden Downs Finland 2-1 To Advance To Gold Medal Game

Martin Rose

The Olympics are never short of surprises, as Kari Lehtonen started for Finland instead of expected starter Tuukka Rask.

Waking up to find out that Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen would start for Team Finland was quite a shock (especially at this ungodly hour in the morning.) Apparently Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has the flu and couldn't go, so Lehtonen was tasked with stepping in.

Lehtonen deserves better than the narrative that will come out of this loss. Yes, he let in a goal that is very un-Lehtonen like. He didn't get a whole ton of support in front of him on the offensive or defensive side. The Finnish defenders had two miscues that led to the goals that went in. They went 0-for-5 on the power play, including a lengthy two man advantage.

There will be more commentary about how Lehtonen cannot win big games, having only two games in the playoffs and this Olympic quarterfinal game on his resume. His play to keep Finland in this game when the Swedish were pressuring in the offensive zone will be overlooked to fit the narrative of his inability to win the big ones. It's unfortunate for Lehtonen, who really did have a decent game in my mind.

First Period

It didn't take long for Lehtonen to get into the game. He was tested early on as Sweden dominated possession for about the first four minutes of the game. Lehtonen had a great save on a wraparound attempt as he came down low and covered the bottom of the ice while sealing off the space between himself and the post. Sweden's shooter wasn't able to elevate the puck to get over Lehtonen's head at the top of the net.

Finland would get the first power play opportunity to end Sweden's onslaught, but wasn't able to convert. Later in the period, they'd get an extended 5-on-3. Sweden's penalty killing was up to the task and nothing would squeak past New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

The period would end 0-0, with both goaltenders making incredible saves and being the real stars of the first.

Second Period

The first goal scored wouldn't be without some controversy. Finland was able to negate an icing call as Olli Jokinen hustled down the ice. Jokinen would find the puck and slip it through the five hole of Lundqvist before the whistle blew. There was a video review to confirm the puck had gone over the line before being whistled dead, and the goal was upheld. Sweden's frustration with the call resulted in an ensuing power play for Finland shortly after they gave up the lead. Good thing their penalty killing is so good, clicking at about 90% in the tournament.

Lehtonen would get scored on by ex-teammate Loui Eriksson a little over half way through the period. He overchallenged the expected shot from the point on the play, and Finland's defense wasn't there to help him out. They left Eriksson wide open on the wing side as Sweden got all five Finnish players to come to the right side. A quick pass to the left and the game is all tied up. Defenseman Olli Maatta missed his man assignment there.

He'd give up another one, a power play goal by Erik Karlsson, from long range. The defenseman wouldn't get up to the point to challenge the shot when on the penalty kill. The puck appeared to go right through the space between Lehtonen's arm and his body. While he got a piece of it, he wasn't able to stop the force of the shot and it put Sweden up 2-1.

Third Period

A whole lot of moving but nothing going in on either side was the summary of the third period. Finland had power play chances to tie the game up, but couldn't convert. They didn't score a single power play goal on any of their chances tonight. The Finns had some good offensive zone time with about five minutes left in the period, but weren't able to maintain the zone enough to pull Lehtonen for the extra attacker until there was only about a minute left in the game. The game would end with the power play goal from Karlsson holding up as the game winner from midway through the second period. In other words, a typical Sweden-Finland game ends with a 2-1 score.

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