Slovakia upsets defending gold medal champion Sweden
For the 4th straight time since NHL players were allowed to compete in the Olympics, the defending gold medal champion has been knocked out in the quarterfinals. On a day that saw another medal favorite knocked out of contention with Canada’s resounding defeat of Russia, the underdog Slovak team ousted Sweden in the hard fought conclusion to yesterday’s quarterfinal round.
Henrik Lundqvist broke a modern era Olympic record with his shutout streak dating back to the start of these games, but that streak would end at 172:34, when his teammate from the Rangers, Marian Gaborik, beat him with a perfect one timer at 7:34 of the 2nd period. It was all downhill from there for Lundqvist, as he let in the next two shots from Slovakia. Andrej Sekera chipped in a pass from Richard Zednik less than a minute later, but Sweden stormed back with 2 quick goals of their own, getting tallies from Patric Hornqvist and Henrik Zetterberg to even the score at 2-2. The Slovak powerplay struck again, however, as Pavol Demitra launched a perfect slapshot with less than a minute remaining in the 3rd that beat Lundqvist high on the glove side, giving Slovakia a 3-2 lead to take into the 3rd.
Slovakia would need more to beat the Swedes, however, as the defending gold medalists seemed determined not to go away with a fight. Sweden dominated the 3rd period, outshooting Slovakia 10-3, but the only Slovak shot that mattered was off the stick of Tomas Kopecky, who retrieved a loose puck from a scrum in front of the net and buried it over a sprawling Lundqvist to give the Slovaks a 2 goal cushion. It ended up being the game winner, as less than 45 seconds later, Danny Alfredsson buried a perfect backhand pass from Nicklas Backstrom to draw Sweden back within one.
Jaroslav Halak was done giving up goals, however, as he locked down the Slovak net for the last 10 minutes, finishing the game with 26 saves, compared to Lundqvist, who made only 10 saves on 14 shots. Slovakia will face Canada on Friday, with the winner heading to the gold medal game against the winner of the game between Team USA and Finland.
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