That one stung.
Team Sweden seemed to be well on its way to victory Sunday morning after it jumped out to a commanding lead against rival Finland in its third game in the 2022 Olympics, but a disastrous third period was too much to overcome, and the Swedes ultimately fell 4-3 in overtime.
Even so, the news wasn’t all bad for Team Sweden, which still did enough in preliminary play to secure a spot in the tournament’s quarterfinals, securing the fourth overall seed behind ROC (3), Finland (2), and Team USA (1).
Here’s what we learned from Sweden’s 4-3 loss to Team Finland.
Special Teams Were Key Yet Again
The game was deadlocked 0-0 after the first period, and Team Sweden took advantage of its opportunities with the man advantage in the second, riding three power-play goals to a 3-0 lead in the middle frame. The goals, scored by Lucas Wallmark, Lukas Bengtsson, and Anton Lander, appeared to give the Swedes all of the momentum, especially considering a huge advantage in shots on goal.
Goalie Magnus Hellberg wasn’t very busy, but remained effective through two periods, and it seemed like Team Sweden was well on its way to clinching Group C.
Not so fast.
Team Finland mounted a furious comeback of its own in the third, notching two power-play goals in the final frame. The true gut-punch happened in the final five minutes of the game, when the Finns scored twice to tie it up. It took just two minutes of 3-on-3 overtime to tally the game winner, courtesy of Harri Pesonen.
Sweden finished the game with a 30-27 edge in shots on goal, but it wasn’t enough to emerge with a victory.
Team Sweden Needs to Work on Closing Out Games
The Swedes’ lack of discipline came back to haunt them in the final frame, but it was actually the second time this tournament they have suffered a late-game collapse, as their opening matchup against Latvia was eerily similar. In that game, Team Sweden raced out to yet another 3-0 lead before ultimately holding on to win 3-2, in a game that was much closer than many predicted.
The lesson for the Swedes was much of the same on Sunday, after their 3-0 lead evaporated just as quickly in the third period. Simply put, Team Sweden needs to put its foot on the accelerator, not the brake, and work on closing out games as it heads into the knockout round.
The culprit? Discipline.
In both games, power-play goals spurred the opposition’s comeback, and the Swedes were simply unable to withstand the pushback from the Finns on Sunday. Similar results can be expected against other powerhouse hockey programs, especially in the medal rounds, unless they can buckle down and avoid costly penalties in the late stages of the game.
Fourth-Seeded Swedes Await Knockout Round Foe
As mentioned earlier, even with the loss, Team Sweden can rest easy knowing it has secured a spot in the tournament’s quarterfinals, avoiding the qualification round altogether while awaiting its opponent for Wednesday’s game. Tuesday’s qualification playoffs include Slovakia vs. Germany, Denmark vs. Latvia, Czechia vs. Switzerland, and Canada vs. China.
The Swedes are scheduled to play at 8:30 ET on Wednesday.
Team Sweden has been led by Wallmark, whose NHL experience is truly paying dividends. The 26-year-old center is a veteran of 187 games in the league, and is currently tied for fourth in the tournament with four points — all goals — in three games.
Defenesmen Jonathan Pudas and Henrik Tommernes are each tied for tenth in the tournament with three assists apiece. Captain Anton Lander has two goals and one assist in three games.
Goalie Magnus Hellberg, who didn’t play until the team’s second game of the tournament, ranks sixth in the Olympics with a 2.46 goals-against average (GAA) after making 63 saves on 68 shots, this over the span of two games. His 92.65 percent save percentage (SV%) is also ranked sixth.
The qualification-round bye will do the Swedes some good, and allow them to get some much-needed rest before hitting the ice again on Wednesday. Though they don’t yet know their opponent, one thing is clear: Team Sweden needs to clean up its late-game play if it hopes to stand on the podium for the first time since taking silver in 2014.
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.