With the Soviet Union fully dissolved, and the only remnants of the Red Army in the Olympics being the Russian team, for the first time since 1952 the Olympic Gold Medal in hockey was essentially fair game. Without the fear of Soviet dominance, the field opened up substantially, giving way to a matchup of Sweden and Canada for the Gold Medal, as well as the International Hockey Lineal Championship.
Both sides were looking to make history in Lillehammer – Canada, to win its first Olympic Gold since the 1952 Games, also the last Games held in Norway, while Sweden was looking to win its first ever Olympic Gold, after two silvers in 1928 and 1964, along with three bronzes.
The game was a defensive battle in the first 40 minutes, with the only slip ups coming in the form of penalties, which Sweden capitalized on with a Tomas Jonsson goal in the first period. However, the third period garnered an offensive explosion from Canada, on the backs of goals from Paul Kariya and Derek Mayer within two minutes of each other, to suddenly put Canada up 2-1. However, a late Brad Werenka penalty, the only one of the third period, would be costly, as Magnus Svensson ricocheted a shot past Corey Hirsch with 1:49 left in regulation to tie the game.
A very back-and-forth ten minute overtime would solve nothing, with only six total shots being registered, pushing the game to the first shootout in Olympic Gold Medal history. Canada jumped out to a quick 2-1 lead on tallies by Petr Nedvěd and Paul Kariya, but equalizers from Svensson and Peter Forsberg tied the teams after the initial five shooters, with both Hirsch and Swedish netminder Tommy Salo putting up solid performances. Svensson and Nedvěd both missed their second attempts, bringing Forsberg up to bat for a second shot.
What transpired is not only one of the most iconic images in hockey history (so famous in fact it became a Swedish postage stamp in 1995), but a truly spectacular shootout achievement for the 20-year-old future Hall of Famer, who moved from his forehand to his backhand, and with Hirsch sliding towards him, Forsberg slid the puck under Hirsch’s outstretched arm towards the right side of the net, one handed, to put Tre Kronor one save away from Gold. And following a sprawling save by Salo on Kariya’s second shot, Sweden, less than two minutes away from defeat in the third period, were Gold Medal winners for the first time.
With the win, Sweden held on to the IHLC that they won from Russia in the Semifinal game two days earlier, to unite the Olympic Gold and IHLC. This was during Sweden’s 39th IHLC reign, and they became the second consecutive team to unify Olympic Gold and the IHLC at the Olympics – for more, check out the IHLC @ Olympics & Invitationals page. Slovakia entered the Olympics as unlikely IHLC champions, who successfully defended the IHLC through the Group Round against Sweden, the United States, Italy, Canada and France. Russia won the IHLC from the Slovaks in the Quarterfinals, before dropping it to Sweden in a 4-3 loss in the Semifinals.
05:44 – PEN – Astley, hooking
06:10 – PP GOAL – Jonsson (Loob, Forsberg)
16:58 – PEN – Rohlin, high sticking
19:39 – PEN – Salo, delay of game
24:17 – PEN – Jonsson, unsportsmanlike conduct
24:17 – PEN – Hlushko, unsportsmanlike conduct
29:11 – PEN – Schreiber, slashing
31:46 – PEN – Johansson, holding
33:37 – PEN – Savage, hooking
37:38 – PEN – Svensson, holding
49:08 – GOAL – Kariya (Kontos, Johnson)
51:43 – GOAL – Mayer
57:50 – PEN – Werenka, hooking
58:11 – PP GOAL – Svensson (Forsberg, Jonsson)
W: Salo (19-21)
L: Hirsch (40-43)
SHOTS ON GOAL
6+16+16+4+1 = 43
7+6+6+2+0 = 21
Goaltenders: Håkan Algotsson, Tommy Salo, Michael Sundlöv. Defence: Christian Due-Boje, Roger Johansson, Tomas Jonsson (A), Kenny Jönsson, Leif Rohlin, Fredrik Stillman, Magnus Svensson. Forwards: Charles Berglund (C), Jonas Bergqvist (A), Andreas Dackell, Niklas Eriksson, Peter Forsberg, Roger Hansson, Patrik Juhlin, Jörgen Jönsson, Patric Kjellberg, Håkan Loob, Mats Näslund, Daniel Rydmark, Stefan Örnskog.
Goaltenders: Corey Hirsch, Manny Legace, Allain Roy. Defence: Mark Astley, Adrian Aucoin, David Harlock, Ken Lovsin, Derek Mayer (A), Brad Schlegel (A), Chris Therien, Brad Werenka. Forwards: Todd Hlushko, Greg Johnson, Fabian Joseph (C), Paul Kariya, Chris Kontos, Petr Nedvěd, Dwayne Norris, Greg Parks, Jean-Yves Roy, Brian Savage, Wallace Schreiber, Todd Warriner.