The 2002 Olympics were rounding into shape quite nicely during the Final Round. Germany and Belarus, the two weakest teams which had advanced from the Preliminary Round, finished in fourth and last place of their respective groups, and the world’s top six nations had each played three games to get to know each other.
Sweden finished atop Group C with a perfect record, including an impressive 5-2 win over Canada to start the tournament. And, the Czechs finished ahead of Canada for second place based on a better goals differential. In group D, the Americans coached sentimentally by 1980 Miracle on Ice coach Herb Brooks, were first with a 2-1-0 record, while Finland was impressive in second place (2-0-1) while Russia was third (1-1-1).
This set up a series of quarter-finals games that would surely lead to two amazing semi-finals matchups. Canada played Finland, the former the obvious favourites. The host Americans played Germany, an almost certain win for the USA. Russia played the Czechs in the toughest battle. And, Sweden played Belarus in the other easy battle—on paper.
But Sweden did not have such an easy time — on ice.
Nicklas Lidström scored early for Sweden to confirm the team’s superiority, but then it was Belarus that scored two goals less than two minutes apart later in the first period. The Swedes tied the game midway through the second thanks to Michael Nylander, but Andrei Kovalev put Belarus ahead 3-2 early in the third. Five minutes later, captain Mats Sundin tied the game, but the Swedes knew now that if they were going to win it wasn’t going to be a blowout as so many people had anticipated.
And then, the unthinkable happened. With time winding down and overtime looking like a distinct possibility, Vladimir Kopat skated down the right side. As soon as he crossed centre ice he fired a long shot at goalie Tommy Salo, content simply to get the puck deep. Salo, however, lost sight of the puck, and it hit him on the top of the helmet. He reacted but didn’t know what to do, and the puck fell behind him and dribbled over the goal line before he could find it. Kopat, in utter disbelief, slid along the ice toward his bench in celebration. The go-ahead goal came with just 2:24 remaining, and Belarus played perfect defence to preserve arguably the most remarkable upset in Olympic history after the Miracle on Ice win in 1980.
Salo never recovered. Although he led Sweden to a Bronze medal at the World Championships several weeks later, he never again played with the confidence necessary to play at the world-class level. His downfall came on a fluky goal at the worst time imaginable, and the team went home in disgrace. But for all the blame Salo received, it is easy to forget that Salo was a standout with the Swedish national team for almost a decade and without any doubt the best Swedish goalie in the ’90s.
It was also important to note that Sweden being in a 3-3 game with Belarus in the quarter-finals of the Olympics was the result of poor performance by the entire team. It was just easiest on this night to blame the goalie.
01:47 – 🇧🇾 PEN – Romanov, holding
03:10 – 🇸🇪 PP GOAL – Lidström (Johnsson, Nylander)
06:43 – 🇧🇾 PEN – Pankov, cross checking
07:15 – 🇧🇾 PEN – Salei, tripping
07:43 – 🇸🇪 PEN – Sundin, roughing
07:47 – 🇧🇾 SH GOAL – Romanov (Matushkin, Kalyuzhny)
09:16 – 🇸🇪 PEN – K. Jönsson, hooking
09:33 – 🇧🇾 PP2 GOAL – Dudik (Kovalyov, Rasolko)
28:43 – 🇧🇾 PEN – Stas, holding
30:14 – 🇸🇪 PP GOAL – Nylander (Sundin, Lidström)
33:34 – 🇧🇾 PEN – Bekbulatov, holding
37:06 – 🇸🇪 PEN – Öhlund, high sticking
42:47 – 🇧🇾 GOAL – Kovalyov
44:39 – 🇧🇾 PEN – Stas, holding
47:54 – 🇸🇪 GOAL – Sundin
50:16 – 🇧🇾 PEN – Stas, holding
54:46 – 🇸🇪 PEN – Renberg, high sticking
57:36 – 🇧🇾 GOAL – Kopat (Antonenko, Bekbulatov)
W: 🇧🇾 Mezin (44-47)
L: 🇸🇪 Salo (15-19)
SHOTS ON GOAL
🇧🇾 10+5+4 = 19
🇸🇪 22+12+13 = 47
🇧🇾 Goaltenders: Andrei Mezin, Sergei Shabanov. Defence: Oleg Khmyl (A), Vladimir Kopat, Alexander Makritski, Igor Matushkin, Oleg Mikulchik, Oleg Romanov, Ruslan Salei, Sergei Stas, Alexander Zhurik. Forwards: Alexander Andrievski (C), Oleg Antonenko, Vadim Bekbulatov, Dmitri Dudik, Alexei Kalyuzhny, Andrei Kovalyov, Dmitri Pankov, Vasili Pankov, Andrei Rasolko, Vladimir Tsyplakov (A), Eduard Zankovets.
🇸🇪 Goaltenders: Johan Hedberg, Tommy Salo. Defence: Kim Johnsson, Kenny Jönsson, Nicklas Lidström (A), Mattias Norström, Fredrik Olausson, Marcus Ragnarsson, Mattias Öhlund. Forwards: Daniel Alfredsson, Magnus Arvedson, Per-Johan Axelsson, Ulf Dahlén, Tomas Holmström, Mathias Johansson, Jörgen Jönsson (A), Michael Nylander, Markus Näslund, Mikael Renberg, Mats Sundin (C), Niklas Sundström, Henrik Zetterberg.
|🇧🇾 BELARUS||vs.||SWEDEN (C) 🇸🇪|
(previous 19 Apr 2000)
(since 17 Feb 2002)
|First IHLC Meeting (BLR vs. SWE)
🇸🇪 SWE 2-1 BLR 🇧🇾 – 09 May 1998 – WC – Zürich 🇨🇭
|Previous IHLC Meeting (BLR vs. SWE)
🇸🇪 SWE 2-1 BLR 🇧🇾 – 09 May 1998 – WC – Zürich 🇨🇭
|Last IHLC Game
🇸🇪 SWE 7-1 GER 🇩🇪 – 18 Feb 2002 – OG – Provo 🇺🇸
|Next IHLC Game
🇨🇦 CAN 7-1 BLR 🇧🇾 – 22 Feb 2002 – OG – West Valley City 🇺🇸