Red Wings coach Mike Babcock can add one more bullet point to his resume: the only coach to lead one country to back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
With a 3-0 victory over Sweden Sunday, Canada won its second straight gold medal and third of the last four Winter Games.
“It’s a great feeling,” Canada captain Sidney Crosby told NBC Sports Net’s Pierre McGuire. “When you look at Vancouver, it was right down to the bitter end, it was overtime, a nail-biter. But since then a lot of things have happened so to be back here in the same situation with a lot of the same guys too that were in Vancouver it’s pretty special.”
The Canadians won every preliminary and playoff tournament game en route to the championship for the first time since the Soviets did so in 1984, and earned their first consecutive gold medals since 1948 and 1952. The now two-time defending champions never trailed in any of their Olympic contests, shutting out their final two opponents to cap off a golden run to the first-place finish. The shutout streak extended to nearly 165 minutes, with the last score against coming at the hands of the Latvians five days ago.
“Just the way this whole group played, to stay poised, I think there were some question marks about our scoring and I think we all believed in one another and the way we needed to play and stuck with it,” Crosby said. “Nobody changed anything and that says a lot about the group of guys here.”
Sweden was shorthanded for most of the tournament without captain Henrik Zetterberg and Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin, and received one more loss before the gold-medal game. Just minutes before the puck dropped, it was announced Washington forward Nicklas Backstrom would not dress against Canada.
Swedish Olympic officials stated that Backstrom tested positive for a banned substance.
“We didn’t know until after warmups there,” Kings forward Jeff Carter said. “It doesn’t really change anything from our end. Obviously he’s a great player and a huge part of their team but for us its’ about going out there and getting the job done.”
Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist had a golden opportunity to give the Swedes a 1-0 lead just four minutes into the contest, driving the net and putting his shot off the far post. The puck bounced off Carey Price’s leg, coming within inches of the goal line, before the goaltender corralled it underneath his glove.
Behind three goals from Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, who collectively hadn’t scored a single goal through the team’s first five games, the Canadians earned their second straight gold medal.
Toews netted the game-winning goal midway through the first period, gaining inside position on Patrik Berglund before redirecting Carter’s pass between Henrik Lundqvist’s pads.
“He’s a pretty easy guy to get familiar with,” Carter said. “He competes and goes to the net and for me that makes it pretty simple.”
Lundqvist kept Sweden from going down by two goals with eight minutes remaining in the second period, making a series of strong saves against Canada’s relentless forwards. Corey Perry, Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis had sharp scoring chances, but Lundqvist made right pad, left pad and scissor kicking saves to stop the three shots.
But Sweden couldn’t keep the Canadians off the scoreboard for long. Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson tried to stickhandle through a host of Canadians and was quickly stripped by Crosby. The Olympic captain used a forehand-backhand move to beat Lundqvist, scoring his long-awaited first goal of the tournament.
Kunitz put the game out of reach with an unassisted goal midway through the final period, beating Lundqvist with a short side shot.
Five of Detroit’s players will leave Sochi with silver medals, including Daniel Alfredsson, Niklas Kronwall, Jonas Gustavsson, Nyquist and Ericsson. Zetterberg will receive his medal when his teammates return from Russia.
As it was in Canada's run to the gold in Vancouver in 2010, it was three men closely associated with the Wings’ organization -- Babcock, general manager Ken Holland and former captain Steve Yzerman -- who successfully designed the foundation and architecture for what will now be considered an Olympic dynasty in men's ice hockey.
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