Russia beats Sweden to set up final vs. Finland at Olympics

Stephen Whyno
Associated Press

Beijing — Methodical yet mighty, the Russians are returning to the gold medal game to defend their Olympic title.

Arseni Gritsyuk scored the winner to cap off an eight-round shootout and put the Russians into the men’s hockey final by beating Sweden 2-1 Friday night. The team known as Russian Olympic Committee will face Finland on Sunday looking for back-to-back gold.

Russian Olympic Committee's Anton Slepyshev (58) celebrates after scoring a goal against Sweden during a men's semifinal hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, in Beijing.

The Russians hung tough to force OT after Sweden tied it on captain Anton Lander’s rebound goal early in the third period. Anton Slepyshev, who spent three seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, busted past former NHL defenseman Christian Folin down the left wing and slid the puck past Lars Johansson for the first Russian goal 15 seconds into the second.

Nikita Gusev and Yegor Yakolev also scored in the shootout for the Russians. Sweden got shootout goals from Lucas Wallmark and Joakim Nordstrom but not the final save from Johansson it needed.

After beating underdog Germany in overtime in the final in Pyeongchang, the Russians will face a more formidable opponent this time in Finland, which defeated Slovakia 2-0 in the other semifinal.

Finland got a goal from tournament MVP candidate Sakari Manninen and 28 saves from Harri Sateri to move within one victory of the nation’s first Olympic hockey gold medal. The closest Finland has gotten were the finals in 2006 and 1988.

“It’s huge for everybody individually, as a team and as a hockey country,” Sateri said. “It is a big thing.”

Slovakia will play Sweden for bronze, going for its first hockey medal of any kind since the breakup of Czechoslovakia.

“It would be a huge achievement, but it will be a tough game,” said 17-year-old forward Juraj Slafkovsky, who’s tied for the tournament lead with five goals. “If we do our best, then I’m not worried that we can’t win the game.”