Sweden, Nyquist grab bronze at Worlds
MINSK, Belarus -- Sweden won the bronze medals at the 2014 World Championship thanks to a 3-0 victory over the Czech Republic.
The margin was far more comfortable than the group stage encounter between the countries, which went to a shoot-out before Joakim Lindstrom got the decisive score to complete Sweden's recovery from 1-3 in that game.
But the scoreline did not entirely do justice to the Czechs here; better fortune around Anders Nilsson's goal might have given them a way back into the game even after giving up two first period goal.
It was Lindstrom who opened the scoring as the Swedes took charge of the scoreboard in the first period.He claimed the fifth minute opener after he got to the goal line and dragged the puck back towards Oscar Moller in the slot. It never got there, however: Petr Zamorsky ended up deflecting the puck past his own goalie.
The Czechs had a great chance to tie it up on the power play when Jakub Klepis saw his shot from the blue line rebound to Jaromir Jagr, but the veteran put his shot wide - an early indication that it wasn't going to be a great night in front of goal for the men in the red, white and blue jerseys.
Sweden extended its lead with a well-worked 16th-minute goal from Simon Hjalmarsson. He fired in a one-timer from a tight angle to wrap up a tic-tac-toe move involving Mattias Ekholm and Nicklas Danielsson.
A two-goal advantage belied the enterprise that the Czechs had shown around Anders Nilsson's net. The Swedish goalie had been the busier of the two, but the Czech goal supply stopped abruptly after two periods of its quarter-final against team USA. At the second intermission on Thursday Vladimir Ruzicka's men led 4-1; a 0-3 reverse against against Finland and two blank periods in the bronze medal game stretched the goalless run to more than 140 minutes.
That wasn't for want of trying. The Czechs carved out enough presentable chances to win this game - and probably another one besides. But a combination of poor finishing and rotten luck for the Czechs, plus good goalkeeping from Anders Nilsson, keep the Swedish goal intact even as he team ran into penalty trouble in the second period.
Even Jagr wasn't immune to the malaise that afflicted his team around the net: twice in the second session he spurned sharp but genuine chances, firing wide from half a meter out before putting another one straight at Nilsson.
When Nilsson - who eventually made 29 saves - was beaten the post came to his rescue. Vladimir Sobotka whipped a smart shot past the goalie's blocker only to clip the outside of the goalframe, then Michal Vondrka also suffered the unwelcome thump of rubber on metal as the second period entered its closing moments.
Finally Czech frustration told and the team began to stumble into penalty trouble, dissipating the momentum that had been built up over the second period.
Sweden's Gustav Nyquist almost capitalized, showing great hands to get close in on Alexander Salak only for the goalie to recover with a find glove save.
But that was a short-lived reprieve: another Czech attack came to nothing and a big rebound turned the puck over to the Swedes. Erik Gustafsson orchestrated a lightning counter, prodding a backhand pass from center ice to Mikael Backlund who put it upstairs from just beyond the face-off spot.
That finally broke the Czechs' spirit, and it took some brave goaltending from Salak to deny Backlund and Nicklas Danielsson in the closing moments as the Swedes collected another set of World Championship medals.