Pierre LeBrun ESPN Senior Writer
Sept 20, 2016
TORONTO — One of hockey’s most intense rivalries played itself out in a chess match Tuesday as Sweden edged Finland 2-0 in the World Cup of Hockey.
The Swedes improved to a perfect 2-0-0 while Finland dropped to 0-2-0. The Finns’ only chance to reach the semifinals now is if there’s a three-way tie in their group, at 1-2-0, with Russia and the North America youngsters. Finland would also likely need to beat the Russians by a wide margin.
On Tuesday, both Sweden and Finland played a calculated, defense-first game at Air Canada Centre, each waiting for the other team to make mistakes. You could feel the tension between the rivals, and it certainly was a physical affair, with offensive chances few and far between.
The Sedin twins help produce the game’s only goal midway through the second period. From the corner, Daniel Sedin fed the puck over to brother Henrik Sedin behind the net. Henrik then deftly fed an oncoming Anton Stralman in front. The Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman put it behind Finland goalieTuukka Rask for the 1-0 lead. Loui Eriksson would add an empty-net goal to make it 2-0, but Stralman’s score was all the defending Olympic silver medalists needed behind Henrik Lundqvist.
The veteran New York Rangers star was terrific in goal for Sweden, his first appearance in the tournament after missing the opener because of a bout with the flu.
One of his better saves was a flashing of the glove on a blast from Finnish phenom Patrik Laine in the middle period.
These two countries don’t like each other, and it showed in some post-whistle scrums and a few big hits, most notably Finland’s Sami Lepisto crushing Mikael Backlund in the third period. The Swedish forward had his head down as he carried the puck out of his zone.
Finland has won back-to-back Olympic bronze medals, but in this tournament is lacking the offensive depth to play at that same level. The Finns’ power play was predictable again Tuesday, way too easy to defend.
Sweden, meanwhile, a team most likely to rival Canada for the World Cup title, has played a pair of defensive gems, limiting Russia to one goal in the opener before shutting out Finland on Tuesday.
1. Henrik Sedin, Sweden: Just a superb feed for the goal. TheVancouver Canucks captain, like his brother, has been dynamite through two games.
2. Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden:What flu bug? King Henrik looked like his old self Tuesday — which was a relief for Sweden after he got lit up in the exhibition play.
3. Anton Stralman, Sweden: Such an underrated player. The Lightning veteran made such a smart read in deciding to pinch in for that goal.