Rick Nash scored a power-play goal midway through the third period to give Canada a 3-2 win over Sweden at Steel Aréna. The win clinches first place in Group F and sets up a quarter-final showdown with Russia on Thursday. Sweden will play Germany in another quarter-final on Wednesday.
Nash’s goal was originally credited to defenceman Brent Burns. His quick wrist shot from the point was apparently tipped in front by Nash and beat Erik Ersberg over the glove.
“It was a great play by [James] Neal on the boards,” Burns said. “Nash had a great screen in front, and I think he tipped it. It was a big goal.”
James Neal had a goal and an assist for the winners, while both Swedish goals came on the power play. Canada also held a decisive 43-25 shots on goal advantage.
“We wanted to win,” Burns said. “We wanted to test ourselves and get better as the tournament goes along. We knew they’d be a big test. They’re a great team with a lot of size and skill. Those are the games that are fun to be a part of.”
Canada has won all six games it has played so far this year (two after regulation), the first time since 2008, and the next game against Russia sets up a repeat of last year’s quarter-finals, won by the Russians, 5-2.
“They’re probably the best team, at least on paper,” acknowledged Swedish defenceman Carl Gunnarsson, “so we had to go out there and fight every shift to keep up with these guys. All their lines are really good, and their power play is outstanding. It’s always fun to play against them.”
If there was any doubt about the integrity of the game, the first four minutes should have laid that argument to rest. Canada got the opening goal on a fine play by James Neal. Rick Nash fed him a pass through centre as Neal roared up ice between the Swedish defence, and he broke free of Jakob Silfverberg long enough to snap a low shot past Ersberg at 1:08.
Just two and a half minutes later, though, the Swedes tied the game on the power play. Parik Berglund’s point shot was stopped by Jonathan Bernier, but David Petrasek was right there to snap home the rebound.
Petrasek’s name checkered the game summary in the form of three minor penalties as well.
Jeff Skinner was largely responsible for putting Canada in the lead once again. Along the left boards on his backhand, he made a nice play to cut in front and move in on goal. Ersberg stopped the shot, but in the scrum that followed John Tavares scored. The goal moved him into a tie with Norway’s Mathis Olimb for the tournament lead in scoring with nine points.
The Swedes tied the game in the second on another power play. This time Silfverberg fed Mattias Tedenby at the side of the goal and his low shot eluded Bernier, a shot the goalie would like to have another crack at.
This proved to be the only goal of the period, but this was not the only highlight. Bernier made a great pokecheck on Mikael Backlund cutting in on goal from the left, and Ersberg robbed Evander Kane with a great glove save.
“I got caught in between when it happened,” Bernier explained, “so that was my only play. I was really on my right side, so I gave him the far side and hoped he would make that move.”
Canada’s captain Rick Nash took a minor penalty for charging, the kind of play only too frequently seen in the NHL this season as he hit his man from the back side.
Bernier made another great save midway through the third, getting a right pad out on a Jimmie Ericsson pass to Andreas Jamtin for a perfect re-direct.
IHLC: With the win, Canada wins their fourth straight in their current and 56th overall reign with the International Hockey Lineal Championship, defeating the United States and Norway after winning the title from Switzerland on May 3. Canada last faced Sweden, who they meet over the IHLC for the 58th time, for the first time since the 2007 World Championships in Moscow, retaining the IHLC in a 4-1 Semifinal victory en route to their eventual Gold Medal. Canada now advances to the Medal Round with the IHLC in tow, first facing Russia in the Quarterfinals with a trip to the final four at stake.
01:08 – GOAL – Neal (Spezza)
03:12 – PEN – Burns, interference
03:43 – PP GOAL – Petrasek (Gunnarsson, Pääjärvi)
08:32 – PEN – Persson, hooking
11:18 – PEN – Eriksson, tripping
13:20 – GOAL – Tavares (Skinner, Stewart)
14:27 – PEN – Duchene, tripping
22:12 – PEN – Petrasek, hooking
30:20 – PEN – Tavares, hooking
30:38 – PP GOAL – Tedenby (Silfverberg, Krüger)
31:45 – PEN – Rundblad, hooking
34:55 – PEN – Eberle, slashing
38:19 – PEN – Nash, charging
39:41 – PEN – Petrasek, hooking
44:07 – PEN – Neal, slashing
52:04 – PEN – Persson, tripping
52:31 – PP GOAL – Nash (Burns, Neal)
55:06 – PEN – Burns, roughing
56:34 – PEN – Krüger, slashing
58:15 – PEN – Petrasek, slashing
W: Bernier (23-25)
L: Ersberg (40-43)
SHOTS ON GOAL
17+11+15 = 43
6+9+10 = 25
Goaltenders: Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer. Defence: Brent Burns, Carlo Colaiacovo, Marc-André Gragnani, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf, Alex Pietrangelo, Luke Schenn. Forwards: Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Rick Nash (C), James Neal, Jeff Skinner, Jason Spezza (A), Chris Stewart, John Tavares, Antoine Vermette, Travis Zajac (A).
Goaltenders: Erik Ersberg, Anders Nilsson. Defence: Tim Erixon, Daniel Fernholm, Carl Gunnarsson, Staffan Kronwall, David Petrasek (A), David Rundblad. Forwards: Mikael Backlund, Patrik Berglund (A), Jimmie Ericsson, Loui Eriksson, Andreas Jämtin, Marcus Krüger, Robert Nilsson, Magnus Pääjärvi, Niklas Persson, Jakob Silfverberg, Mattias Sjögren, Mattias Tedenby, Martin Thörnberg, Rickard Wallin (C).