OT goal pushes Sweden into semi-final
by Chris JUREWICZ|23 MAY 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin

Call this an instant classic between archrivals Finland and Sweden.

Sweden outshot Finland 32-19 through three periods but needed an overtime goal by Joel Eriksson Ek to knock off the Finns 2-1 and move on to the semi-finals against host Czechia.

Finland’s Konsta Helenius took a hooking penalty at 4:59 into overtime to take away a glorious chance by Sweden’s Adrian Kempe. The Swedes struck on the 4-on-3 powerplay when Eriksson Ek tipped in a point shot from Victor Hedman. It was the first powerplay goal against for Finland all tournament long.

"That was the first PK goal we gave up but it stings," said Finnish captain Olli Maatta. "I have to say they’re a good team. They’re a great team. They’re definitely contenders. At the same time, we’re pretty proud of the fight we gave today and it stings a lot to lose like that. But that’s hockey sometimes."

The win kept Sweden’s incredible streak alive. Through eight games and half an overtime, the Swedes have yet to trail at these Worlds.

Sweden’s win came despite an incredible performance by Finland goaltender Emil Larmi, who stopped 33 of 35 shots he faced. Sweden outshot Finland 35-20.

"It wasn’t frustrating but, for us, we had a lot of good looks. Their goalie was phenomenal," said Hedman. "We knew that coming in. He’s had a lot of success against Sweden so we knew we had a tough task at hand but, at the end of the day, we got through and now we prepare for the next one."

Swedish defender Rasmus Dahlin broke a scoreless tie in the third period when he snuck in from the point and snapped a shot that beat Larmi through the five-hole.

Finland was then forced to change its strategy, from the patient rope-a-dope tactic it exhibited during the first 55 minutes of the game into one where it had to apply pressure on the Swedes.

And it worked. With its goaltender pulled, Finland tied the game with 58 seconds left when Hannes Bjorninen deflected in a pass from Valtteri Puustinen, the puck beating Sweden’s Filip Gustavsson over his left shoulder, to send the game to overtime.

Earlier in the third, Sweden got its third powerplay of the game six minutes in when Bjorninen was sent off for high-sticking. But the Finns did what they’ve done all tournament (up until overtime, that is), getting in passing and shooting lanes and not allowing the puck to get through on their goaltender. Kempe had the best chance at the side of the net but Larmi stopped that one to give Finland its 15th-straight penalty kill of the tournament.

"I think the biggest thing from today's game is that we stuck with it," said Sweden's Lucas Raymond. "We didn't change our game, and finally with five minutes left, we finally got one. I think this was our toughest game, but we had that final touch."

The Finns earned their first powerplay of the game midway through the third, as Sweden’s Jesper Froden went to the box for tripping. Shots at that point were 29-10 Sweden and the Swedes didn’t allow a Finland shot during the two minutes, killing off their 16th-straight penalty.

Larmi was the story of this game as the Swedes attacked in waves.

Around the seven-minute mark of the second, Sweden forced a Finnish turnover in its end and Lucas Raymond sent a pass to an open Isac Lundestrom, who deflected the puck only to see Larmi kick out his right leg and make a tremendous save.

Juha Jaaska had a partial breakaway for Finland but backhanded the puck wide with about four minutes left. The Swedes held a 24-8 advantage on the shot clock after 40 minutes.

The first period was also controlled by Sweden. Larmi stopped 13 shots in the opening 20, many of the high-danger variety. One of his best came on an odd-man rush when Dahlin jumped to join his forwards and found himself with a great look from the top of the faceoff circle. Dahlin tried to rip it upstairs but Larmi flashed his glove to stop the puck.

Gustavsson didn’t have nearly as much work but stopped all five Finnish shots directed his way. Jaaska had his team’s best chance when he dove for a bouncing puck and got a good shot on Gustavsson but the tournament’s top goaltender in terms of save percentage kicked the puck away.

Hedman said he's excited to move onto the semi-finals against Czechia.

"It’s going to be a phenomenal experience," said Hedman. "Super excited about the opportunity to play the host in front of 18,000 in Prague. We'll ghet a good night’s sleep and then get going to Prague."

Sweden vs Finland (QF) - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship