Olympic Ice Hockey Analysis

Bernie Wilson

A thrilling final act

TURIN, Italy – The Super Bowl of Scandinavia brought down the curtain on the Turin Olympics.

Unlike most real Super Bowls, this one was riveting.

Sweden won the men's hockey gold medal on Sunday with a 3-2 upset over its Nordic neighbor, Finland, in the last competition before they doused the flame at neighboring Olympic Stadium.

It wasn't the gold medal game many had predicted, but it was a good one.

Many of the fans at Palasport Olimpico were still making their way back to their seats after the second intermission when Sweden's three biggest stars hooked up for the game winner, a wicked slap shot by Nicklas Lidstrom 10 seconds into the third period.

Peter Forsberg won the faceoff and passed to Mats Sundin, who fed Lidstrom for his shot that beat Antero Niittymaki just under the crossbar.

The Swedes made it hold up through some frenetic stretches during the next 19 minutes, 50 seconds, thanks especially to some clutch goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.

When the horn sounded, the Swedes tossed their gloves and sticks all over the place before forming a giant mob in front of their bench.

"It's our national sport, so this is the greatest," Henrik Sedin said.

This was the first time Finland and Sweden played each other for the Olympic gold medal. Sweden adds this gold to the one it won in 1994, on Forsberg's shootout goal against Canada.

"I was much more nervous this time," Forsberg said. "I was only 20 years old, and I didn't know how hard it was going to be to get back to the Olympic final. I think I appreciate this one more."

It used to be that only a handful of teams had a chance at an Olympic gold medal in hockey. But in the last three Olympics, six teams have played for the gold.

Most people thought Canada would defend the gold medal it won in Salt Lake City, but it lost to Russia in the quarterfinals.

Finland had been brilliant in this tournament, allowing just five goals in seven straight wins to reach the gold-medal game.

"We couldn't score during the last period to get the tie and that was our problem," forward Jarkko Ruutu said. "We had many opportunities but we were not able. It's hard to face. We won all our previous games, but we lost the final."

The Finns led 1-0 after one period on a power-play goal by Kimmo Timonen, on an assist by Teemu Selanne.

A scrum in front of the Finnish net late in the period reminded everyone of this neighborly rivalry.

Sweden took a 2-1 lead in the second period on consecutive power-play goals, by Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.

Finland's final goal, by Ville Peltonen, was a beauty. Jussi Jokinen flipped the puck from behind the net and between a defenseman's legs to Peltonen, who beat Antero Niittymaki of the Philadelphia Flyers.

And then came the goal that Swedes will remember forever.

"That was a great goal by three great guys," Sweden's Daniel Sedin said. "It was a good fit for it to come down to that. They've been an example to younger Swedish guys for a long time, so it's great to see them do it."

The two rosters had a combined 36 NHL players.

By the way, for those who still care about hockey, the NHL ends its Olympic break with six games on Tuesday.

These games are over.

AP sports writer Bernie Wilson is covering the Olympics exclusively for Yahoo! Sports.

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Gold Silver Medal TOTAL
Sweden SWEDEN 1 1 0 2
Canada CANADA 1 0 0 1
Finland FINLAND 0 1 0 1
Czech Republic CZECH REPUBLIC 0 0 1 1
United States UNITED STATES 0 0 1 1
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