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Canada vs. Sweden Gold-Medal Game: Turning Points and Best Performances in Sochi

Jonathan Toews of Canada (16) celebrates this goal with teammate Jeff Carter (77) during the first period of the men's gold medal ice hockey game against Sweden at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Petr David Josek/Associated Press
Ryan DavenportContributor IFebruary 23, 2014

On paper, Canada and Sweden were arguably the two most well-rounded squads in the field at the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament, so it's not all that surprising that they met with the gold on the line in Sochi.

But in the end, Mike Babcock's boys proved to be far too powerful and deep for the Swedes to handle, and the Canadians claimed their second consecutive gold in what may be the last Olympics featuring NHL players for the time being.

It wasn't necessarily as lopsided as the 3-0 final score suggests, but there was no questioning the superiority of the Canadian squad, as it thoroughly controlled the pace of play for the vast majority of the game.

With the finale of one of the most compelling international hockey tournaments ever played in the books, here's a look back at the defining moments and performances of the hyped gold-medal clash.

 

No Backstrom

Without Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin on the ice for the Swedes, Nicklas Backstrom's presence down the middle looked to be a critical factor for the eventual silver medalists against Canada.

Unfortunately, the Washington Capitals star was unable to join his teammates for the biggest game of the tournament, which was a crushing blow to Sweden's chances.

It sounds silly, but truthfully, Sweden's chances at Olympic gold may well have ended even before the opening puck drop, because Backstrom was such a huge part of this team's offensive attack.

Despite the absences of Sedin and Zetterberg, Backstrom's creativity, vision and poise with the puck, particularly on the power play, helped Sweden advance to the tournament's title game, and without him, there simply wasn't enough offense within this lineup to out-gun Canada.

We'll have to wait to see whether it was ultimately an allergy medication that caused the sublimely talented setup man to watch from the sidelines, but if that's the case, this team will always wonder what could have been.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15:  Nicklas Backstrom #19 of Sweden skates against Latvia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group C game on day eight of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 15, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by
Martin Rose/Getty Images

 

Dominance From Canada's Defense Corps

This game featured the Olympics' two best defensive units, as both Sweden and Canada boast blue lines loaded with top-tier NHL talent.

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Though Erik Karlsson had been one of the biggest stories of the tournament heading into the game, and rightfully so, Canada's well-rounded defense shut down Sweden's top offensive weapons and, with the exception of a couple of hiccups, made life relatively easy for Carey Price.

At the forefront of this effort was Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. Earlier, Doughty had made headlines for his offensive contributions, as he notched both of Canada's goals in the team's critical win over Finland. But on this day, Doughty played a smart, poised 60 minutes and was probably Canada's most valuable player throughout this entire process.

As a result, the two-time Olympic champ was Canada's lone representative on the All-Tournament Team.

Beyond Doughty, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and the rest of Canada's blueliners compensated for Canada's somewhat paltry offensive output by limiting opponents to just three goals in five games, and that's why this team won gold once again.

 

March of the Penguins

Prior to the Canada-Sweden showdown, the Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby had combined for zero goals and two assists in four games, which was shocking for a pair of players who were both NHL First-Team All-Star selections last season. 

But when things mattered most, Crosby and Kunitz both left their mark on the world's biggest stage. 

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23:  Chris Kunitz #14 of Canada celebrates with teammates Drew Doughty #8, Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 and Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a third-period goal against Henrik Lundqvist #30 of Sweden during the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Med
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With Canada ahead by one in the second, Crosby found himself in all alone on Henrik Lundqvist, and he once again delivered in the clutch, beating the New York Rangers superstar with a pretty deke to the backhand to put the reigning champs up by two. 

Then, in the third, Kunitz registered his first point of the tournament with an absolute laser into the roof to clinch the gold for Canada. 

Maybe the pair didn't put up the numbers expected of them overall, but when their team needed them to contribute offensively, they did just that.

 

Toews Starting Things Off, Part 2

In 2010, Canada got off to a roaring start in the gold-medal game when Jonathan Toews buried Mike Richards' rebound to stake the hosts to a 1-0 lead. Once again, the two-time Stanley Cup winner put the Canadians up early on, as he redirected Shea Weber's attempt past Lundqvist to give his team a lead it would never relinquish.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23:  Jonathan Toews #16 of Canada celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Henrik Lundqvist #30 of Sweden in the first period during the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bol
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Toews has proven time and time again that he's among the game's most clutch stars, and though it was a 3-0 final, he'll go down as the guy who got the winner in Sochi.

With Crosby and Toews both 26 or younger, Canada's set to have a pair of the best leaders in hockey in the fold for a very long time.

 

Sweden's Second Period

After falling behind by a goal in the first, Sweden hoped to rebound in the middle frame, but penalty troubles were a big factor in the 2006 gold medalists' undoing. Less than six minutes into the second period, Jakob Silfverberg got sent to the box for a delay of game infraction, which killed any momentum the Swedes hoped to build following the intermission.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Though it was an even-strength tally, Crosby found the back of the net less than 10 minutes later to put Canada up by two, creating a dire situation for Sweden.

To make matters worse, Patrik Berglund's boarding penalty just over 90 seconds later put Sweden at an even bigger disadvantage, as it basically confirmed that it would head into the second intermission in a two-goal hole.

Against a team as defensively stout as Canada, falling behind by two is a recipe for disaster, and taking two needless penalties in a critical period ultimately killed Sweden's chances at a comeback.

 

A Proven Price

At one point, Canada's goaltenders appeared to be the team's weakest component, despite having Roberto Luongo, the man who led the nation to gold in 2010, still on the roster. However, Price grabbed hold of the starting job and never wavered, surrendering just three goals on 103 shots in four games, and was at his very best against Sweden.

Petr David Josek/Associated Press

The Swedes managed to throw 24 shots his way, including a couple of high-quality scoring chances, but Price was equal to the task every time, and had Lundqvist not been outstanding during the earlier stages of the tournament, he would've been named the Olympics' top goaltender.

Regardless of individual honors, Price outplayed his counterpart and dispelled any notion of him not being able to get the job done in clutch situations.

In the past, Price has had some struggles in the postseason with Montreal, but his play in Sochi cemented his status as an elite goaltender. And as a goalie who relies heavily on confidence, one has to think he'll keep the good times rolling when he resumes play with the Canadiens.

 

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