World Junior 2015: Sweden stokes fears with lights-out power play, Finland left feeling 'frustrated' after penalties hasten early exit

Buzzing The Net
William Nylander was denied twice on breakaways, but Sweden won going away against Finland on Friday. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
William Nylander was denied twice on breakaways, but Sweden won going away against Finland on Friday. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

TORONTO — There is such a thing as a good penalty, the kind that prevents a sure goal. Team Sweden, 6-3 vanquishers of Finland in the world junior championship quarter-final after a big afternoon from the likes of Adrian Kempe, Oskar Lindblom, William Nylander and Lucas Wallmark takes a particularly relish in making teams pay for the really bad penalty. 

Sweden and Finland were tied through two periods in front of 14,440 at the Air Canada Centre, where they will be a crowd favourite on Semifinal Sunday against Russia by virtue of having Nylander and, well, by not being Russia. But Roope Hintz was gated for cross-checking with 11 seconds left in the frame and, off the ensuing faceoff, workhorse defenceman Julius Honka got the automatic penalty for continuing to play after his helmet fell off.

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That left Sweden up two skaters for nearly full two minutes to start the third. Kempe, a Los Angeles Kings pick, scored Sweden's 12th power-play goal of the tournament 1:24 into the frame to put Tre Kroner ahead for good. It sent a clear message to Russia: take a penalty, and that can happen to you.

"When you score on that, of course, it's tough on that team," said Kempe, who has four goals in the tournament. "Today was a good game for us. They got the first goal, but we regrouped, and had a really good power play [going 3-for-6].

"Teams should be scared of it," Kempe said of the Sweden power play, which is now 12-for-25 in five games while being paced by Nylander, whose mere mention on the public-address system elicits "Go Leafs Go" chants.

Sweden, which also got two goals from Forsling and a two-assist day from Nylander, exorcised its gold-medal game overtime loss to the Finns in the 2014 WJC in Malmo, Sweden. Captain Jacob de la Rose downplayed that angle, preferring to look ahead to Russia.

"Our power play was really good that game and we were very disciplined in our own zone," de la Rose said of the teams' first meeting, a 3-2 Sweden win on Dec. 29. "They're a good team, so it's going to be a tough time. Everyone expected the USA to go far in this tournament, but anything can happen.

"It's always a rivalry because we play each other so much," de la Rose said of playing Finland. "I'm really glad we won today. I don't think about that [gold-medal] game anymore. It's over now."

The game story essentially boiled down to Finland's power play being as fallow as Sweden's was fecund. The Finns finished 0-for-21 for the tournament after a day where they could only get a handful shots on a four-minute advantage early in the third period. Lindblom got the dagger goal off a Nylander home run pass 90 seconds after the long power play expired. 

"It became like everyone was trying to force shots and trying to force passes," said Finnish captain Artturi Lehkonen, one of seven players from the '14 champions. "We didn't have any flow, any motion. We couldn't play relaxed, calm. We were a little bit thinking too much. Our first power play was experienced. It's no excuse to say we weren't experienced.

"I just feel real empty," Lehkonen added. "This is my last world juniors, last time talking to people, It's hard to explain."

Finland showed some moxie by fighting back to tie 3-3 late in the second period. Pittsburgh Penguins first-rounder Kasperi Kapanen, who had a quiet week but is young enough for next season's WJC in Helsinki, made a great play to jump around Sebastian Aho and drive to the net for a game-tying rebound goal with 4:11 left in the second.

The Finns were flush until the consecutive penalties.

"I feel like our team had potential to go much farther than this," defenceman Mika Ilvonen said. "The game was 3-3, we had chances. It was 4-3 [for Sweden] a minute into the third, good scoring chances. We miss the net and then, bad turnover in the neutral zone and they go up 5-3 [on Lindblom's goal], which was the final hit for us.

"We were so close and that's why we were so frustrated, because we believed in ourselves," added Ilvonen, who plays college hockey for St. Cloud State. "We deserved more than this. But we took the penalties. We didn't score on the power play."

Playing their Nordic rival was a good primer for what the Swedes can expect in two days' time against Russia, which can be stout in its own zone with a lineup that includes 19 players in their final year of WJC eligibility. That first meeting was a pick 'em where Sweden won after a video review confirmed the puck did not completely cross the line on an initial Russia goal.

"They're a really skilled team, really tough players and we're going to have come out there with the exact same game," Kempe said. "We need to go out there and finish."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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