Slovakia pulled out a stunning victory over Sweden in the Olympic Quarterfinal in Vancouver, never conceding a lead to a team many saw as a Gold contender, to advance to the semifinals with their newly-won International Hockey Lineal Championship in tow.
Both teams opened up the game testing each other’s offensive and defensive prowess, not being two squads that traditionally face each other often. Goalies Henrik Lundqvist and Jaroslav Halák were both sharp, stopping seven shots apiece in a scoreless first period. Things came alive in the second period, with five of the game’s seven goals coming in a torrid span of just twelve minutes – Marián Gáborík struck first on the power play for Slovakia, ripping a cross-ice feed from Marián Hossa past Lundqvist on a one-timer to take the 1-0 lead 7:34 into the period.
The Slovaks would quickly strike again, stunning Tre Kronor when streaking defender Andrej Sekera lifted a one-timer from Richard Zedník over Lundqvist just 37 seconds after Gáborík’s goal, for the sudden 2-0 lead. Sweden did not panic, however, and began mounting their comeback five and a half minutes later, starting with a Patric Hörnqvist backhander off the post and past Halák to cut the deficit to 2-1. And, similar to Sekera, Sweden struck again just 37 seconds later, when a Henrik Zetterberg saucer pass across the goal mouth, intended for Peter Forsberg, instead deflected off Slovak defender Milan Jurcina and in, to suddenly even things at 2-2.
But with just 48 seconds remaining in the second, Slovakia took the advantage into intermission on a Pavol Demitra power play marker, blasting a shot from the top of the circle that beat Lundqvist on a Michal Handzuš screen for the 3-2 lead, in a period where Slovakia was outshot 12-4, but scored on 75% of their shots. Sweden came out firing again in the third, leading Slovakia 10-3 in the department, but the Slovaks struck again 9:01 into the third, on a Tomáš Kopecký rebound under Lundqvist’s pad, catching up to a 2-on-1, for the 4-2 lead.
Sweden would strike 38 seconds later, with a Daniel Alfredsson wire over Halák to close the gap to 4-3, but this is the closest they could get. Halák stood on his head for the final ten minutes of the game, even with an extra attacker on in the final minute, to advance Slovakia to their first Quarterfinal in Olympic history in the stunning victory. Halák stopped 26 of 29 in the win, while Lundqvist stopped 10 of a lowly 14 shots in the loss. Demitra ended the game with a goal and two assists, while Hossa finished with three helpers on the night.
With the win, Slovakia captures their ninth International Hockey Lineal Championship, ending Sweden’s reign at just a single game, after winning the title from Finland, who entered the Olympics with the title. Slovakia, who wins their first title since the 2006 Turin Olympics, faces Sweden over the IHLC for the first time since Turin, where Slovakia defeated the Swedes 3-0 at the end of group play, Sweden’s last loss before they swept the medal round to win Gold. Slovakia now advances to the Semifinals to face the hosts, Canada, with a trip for Gold and the IHLC on the line.
09:31 – PEN – Påhlsson, roughing
10:22 – PEN – Zedník, interference
11:36 – PEN – Johansson, tripping
16:04 – PEN – Tallinder, hooking
26:19 – PEN – team, too many players
27:34 – PP GOAL – Gáborík (Marián Hossa, Demitra)
28:11 – GOAL – Sekera (Zedník, Pálffy)
33:49 – GOAL – Hörnqvist (Forsberg)
34:26 – GOAL – Zetterberg (Enström)
38:16 – PEN – Enström, tripping
39:12 – PP GOAL – Demitra (Chára, Marián Hossa)
39:33 – PEN – Cibák, tripping
42:41 – PEN – Gáborík, roughing
49:01 – GOAL – Kopecký (Marián Hossa, Demitra)
49:39 – GOAL – Alfredsson (Bäckström, Eriksson)
W: Halák (26-29)
L: Lundqvist (10-14)
SHOTS ON GOAL
7+4+3 = 14
7+12+10 = 29
Goaltenders: Peter Budaj, Jaroslav Halák. Defence: Ivan Baranka, Zdeno Chára (C), Milan Jurcina, Andrej Meszároš, Andrej Sekera, Martin Štrbák, Ľubomír Višňovský. Forwards: Ľuboš Bartečko, Martin Cibák, Pavol Demitra (A), Marián Gáborík, Michal Handzuš, Marcel Hossa, Marián Hossa (A), Tomáš Kopecký, Žigmund Pálffy, Branko Radivojevič, Miroslav Šatan, Jozef Stümpel, Richard Zedník.
Goaltenders: Jonas Gustavsson, Henrik Lundqvist. Defence: Tobias Enström, Magnus Johansson, Niklas Kronwall, Nicklas Lidström (C), Douglas Murray, Johnny Oduya, Henrik Tallinder, Mattias Öhlund. Forwards: Daniel Alfredsson (A), Nicklas Bäckström, Loui Eriksson, Peter Forsberg, Johan Franzén, Patric Hörnqvist, Samuel Påhlsson, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Mattias Weinhandl, Henrik Zetterberg (A).