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Wings help lead Sweden to gold

Tuesday, 02.28.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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Wings help lead Sweden to gold
TORINO, Italy -- The celebrating in Sweden is no doubt pretty impressive in the wake of Sweden's goal-medal victory over the Finns Sunday. But back in North America, a little burg known as "Hockeytown" has every right to kick back and join in.

Why?

How's about the play of the "Swedish Wings" in the gold-medal game?

Detroit Red Wings scored all three goals for Sweden, including the winning goal by defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom 10 seconds into the third period.

Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and an assist in the game and defenseman Niklas Kronwall also scored. Forward Mikael Samuelsson assisted on Zetterberg's second period power-play goal.

"Detroit's players led us to gold?" Swedish coach Bengt Gustafsson said in answer to a question at the postgame press conference. "No, they were great, but I had 23 players who did their best and gave a wonderful contribution for our victory." The only Red Wing held off the score sheet was winger Tomas Holmstrom -- and he stood within inches of Zetterberg's goal.

The Red Wings might be a good team to keep an eye on as the NHL resumes play. After the last two Olympics in which the NHL participated, the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup -- 1998 and 2002.

Finns dominate all-star team -- Not surprisingly, Finns took four of the six places on the Olympic All-Star Team in balloting among media members.

Goalie Antero Niittymaki, defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forwards Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu were joined by Sweden's Nicklas Lidstrom and Russian forward Alexander Ovechkin.

The tournament directorate best player awards went to Niittymaki as top goalie, Sweden's Kenny Jonsson as top defenseman, Selanne as best forward. Niittymaki was named the tournament's most valuable player.

Heartfelt thanks -- Finnish coach Erkka Westerlund was very appreciated of his players' efforts during the tournament.

"I would like to thank my players," Westerlund said. "They are great players and great human beings. We had a great team here, but we didn't have our time. That is the drama of sports."

Silver and gold -- The faces told the story as the medals were awarded. The Finns kept a stiff upper lip, but the disappointment was etched on their faces. Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne and Teppo Numminen, three longtime veterans, were the first Finns to receive their medals.

The reaction was understandably more joyous among the Swedes. Mats Sundin received the first gold medal and immediately kissed it. Ditto Nicklas Lidstrom. Daniel Alfredsson snuck a look at the medal and then kissed it. Kenny Jonsson gave an immediate thumbs-up to the cameras, while Henrik Zetterberg was typically quiet. Next up was goalie Henrik Lundqvist, wrapped in the Swedish flag. He pumped his fist.

Henrik Lundqvist was part of a joyous celebration for the Swedes. Once the medals were handed out, the Swedish players tossed the bouquets of flowers they had also received to fans as they took a victory lap. And then it was time for the team photo. All-in-all a great time on ice for the Swedes.

We'll think on it -- The disappointment of the Finns was palpable and understandable. When you are on the verge of a major accomplishment and come up short, the disappointment causes a pain all its own. But the Finns were excellent sportsmen after the game and even as they answered tough questions from the media, some silver streaks from the dark cloud of the loss began to emerge.


"It's a proud moment, but also a tough one," team captain Saku Koivu said. "There's moments like this in sports, in hockey, where it's tough to see the positive at the moment."

"It's a pity, losing the final after such a tournament as we played," Jere Lehtinen said. "We always won, at the end we only got a silver medal."

"It's hard to face," forward Jarkko Ruutu said. "We won all our previous games, but we lost the final."

"The silver is a big thing for a little country like Finland," defenseman Toni Lydman said. "We've come back to our supporters with a medal, so it's important."

"We have to be happy," winger Antti Laaksonen said. "We got a silver medal and now we have more respect in the hockey world."

Tighter than tight -- How close was the game? Well besides being a one-goal decision, the saves were even, 25 each. The shots were 28-27 for Sweden. Penalty minutes were 14 each. The Finns had one power-play goal, the Swedes two.

How Swede it is -- Euphoric was a good word to describe the normally sedate Swedes.

"This is the biggest moment of my life," Kenny Jonsson said. "It was hard, a thrilling fight. We played a great tournament.

"It's a great feeling," winger Fredrik Modin said. "I got an Olympic gold meda! It's difficult to explain my emotions now. This is the best you can get. You'll probably never have a chance like this, it's one match and you must win it."

Unfinished business -- Delighted with the gold medal, Mats Sundin said he now has another goal to achieve this season.

"Winning Olympic gold against the best players in the world is certainly my greatest moment in my hockey career," Sundin said. "But hopefully, I can also get into the Stanley Cup Finals with Toronto too."

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