On This Date in Sports February 26, 2006: Gold for Sweden

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Sweden captures the Gold Medal in Men's Ice Hockey at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. It is the third Olympic tournament with NHL players, and the Swedes led by the goaltending efforts of Henrik Lundqvist and the play of Niklas Lidstrom reign supreme. In the Gold Medal game, Sweden beat Finland 3-2 as Lidstrom scores the game-winner ten seconds into the third period as Lunndvist did the rest. 

The first NHL Olympic tournament in Nagano in 1998 was a disaster for the Americans. In 2002 at Salt Lake City, they managed to win the Silver Medal, as Canada won its first Olympic Gold Medal in 50 years. In 2006 at Torino in Italy, the Men's Ice Hockey Tournament would be dominated by teams from Europe. There was immediate concern for Team USA, who struggled to tie Lativa 3-3 in their first game. After a 4-1 win over Kazakhstan, the Americans dropped their final three games in group play, losing to Slovakia 2-1, Sweden 4-1, and Russia 5-4. There was some controversy in Group B, as Sweden allegedly threw their final game against Slovakia, losing 3-0 to finish third and avoid a quarterfinal meeting with Canada, who had their own struggles, going 3-2-0. 


After finishing fourth in Group B, Team USA faced Finland in the quarterfinals and lost 4-3. After trailing 2-0 early, the Americans battled back to tie the game early in the second period. However, Olli Jokinen scored twice to lead Finland to victory. Sweden's loss paid off as they crushed Switzerland 6-2, with Mats Sundin scoring a pair of goals to lead the way. Canada also would see their medal hopes evaporate in the quarterfinals, as Evgeni Nabokov stopped all 33 shots as Russia beat the reigning Olympic champions 2-0. The Czech Republic, who won the 1998 Olympic Gold Medal, beat Slovakia 3-1 to complete the semifinals. 

In the semifinals, Sweden hit their stride, crushing the Czech Republic 7-3, as seven different players scored a goal to back Henrik Lundqvist in goal. Meanwhile, Finland blanked Russia to set up an all Scandanivan final for the Gold Medal. Again, the Russians would be frustrated and shut out in the Bronze Medal game, losing to the Czechs 3-0. 

The Gold Medal Game came on the last day of competition at the Torino Olympics in Italy. Antero Niittymaki, after his shutout of Russia, backstopped Finland, while Henrik Lundqvist was in goal for Sweden. Kimmo Timonen gave Finland a 1-0 lead in the first period with a power-play goal. In the second period, Sweden answered as Henrik Zetterberg scored a power-play goal. Sweden took their first lead just past the midway point of the second period on Niklas Kronwall's goal. However, Finland answered 96 seconds later with a goal by Ville Peltonen. The score was tied 2-2 as the third period began. Sweden won the faceoff and made a quick rush up the ice, with Niklas Lidstrom making it 3-2 just ten seconds into the final period. That goal would be the game-winner as Finland could not get anything past Lundqvist as Sweden was Olympic Gold Medal Champions in hockey for the second time, having previously won in 1994.