International Ice Hockey Federation

Nylander leads Sweden

Nylander leads Sweden

Top crowd of U20 sees thrilling, chippy 3-2 win

Published 29.12.2014 21:32 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Nylander leads Sweden
TORONTO, CANADA - DECEMBER 29: Sweden's Axel Holmstrom #25 celebrates with teammates after his team's third period goal against Russia during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Sweden continued its junior mastery over Russia, winning for the sixth straight time by rallying for a 3-2 victory. William Nylander had two assists in the win.

In the last four years of U20 play these teams have played six times. All have been one-goal games, and all have been Sweden victories. Tonight's game was witnessed by nearly 17,000 fans at the Air Canada Centre, the top figure to date for the 2015 U20.

"We know we have to start fast, but we always start slowly," lamented Russian defenceman Rinat Valiev. "I don't know why."

With the win Sweden (3-0-0-0) will likely claim first place and a top seeding in Group B while the loss leaves Russia (1-1-0-1) in second place.

Both teams close out the Preliminary Round with games on New Year’s Eve. Sweden takes on Switzerland in the early matchup, and then the Russians and Czechs hook up in the final game of 2014.

"We did the things we needed to do," said William Lagesson. "We worked hard, back-checked, and tried to get the puck to their net. They're skilled players and it's important to close the gaps to slow them down. We did that well."

Conn Smythe, long-time owner and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, used to say that he didn’t want players who looked good in a loss; he wanted players who looked good in a win. Well, Nylander is proving to be just such a Smytheman.

Midway through the first period he made a magical move in the Russian end, coming out of the corner with the puck with ridiculous ease. Moments later, he drew a penalty with some speed and foot movement, and on the ensuing power play Sweden opened the scoring.

The goal, off a quick snap shot from the point from Gustav Forsling made it a 1-0 game at 10:38, and the Swedes got the start they wanted.

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And as the Swedes are so good at doing, they played smart and clever hockey, neither giving up nor creating many scoring chances. But the time ticked off the clock one second after another, one minute after another until the game was halfway done in no time at all.

The Russians, though, were not lulled, and kept using their speed to keep the Swedes on their toes. Ziat Paigin took a quick shot from the point, and Linus Soderstrom failed to glove the puck cleanly. Vyacheslav Leshenko was right there to snap the rebound in, tying the game at 14:15 of the middle period.

Russia took the lead at 3:23 of the third thanks to a weak play by Soderstrom, who coughed up another juicy rebound. Leshenko pounced with his second goal of the game after Pavel Buchnevich tossed a light shot at the goal and William Lagesson failed to check Leshenko adequately.

But three minutes later, the Swedes tied the game on a power play. Forsling took another point shot that went all the way.

"We know he has a great shot, so we try to use him as often as we can," Nylander noted.

At 7:06 of the third the Russians thought they scored again when Ivan Barbashyov's quick shot forced Soderstrom to make the save of the game with his right toe. But as he tried to control the puck at the goal line he pushed it back before covering up. Video review determined the puck was on the line but didn't fully break the plane of the goal line entirely.

"I should have scored," Nylander said with a laugh, "but we made a nice play and it ended up well in the end."

Nylander played a significant role in the winning goal for Sweden, which came at 10:53. He carried the puck into the Russia end and lost control just as he was about to shoot in the slot. Alex Holmstrom was open and fired the loose puck into the open side for a 3-2 Sweden lead. It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done.

When asked if he was happy with his play in front of the Toronto crowd, Nylander said, "Yes, of course, but I want to show them even more." That's good news for Leafs fans in the future - and equally good news for Team Sweden in the immediate context of this tournament.


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