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Monday, February 22, 2010

Lundqvist shuts out Finns in Vancouver


Rangers goaltender perfect for Sweden so far at 2010 Olympics

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist picked up his second shutout in as many starts at the 2010 Olympics on Sunday night in Vancouver, as Lundqvist's Swedish team dominated Finland in a 3-0 victory to clinch the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinal round.

Only Team USA, which will go into the quarters as the top-seeded team, finished higher than Sweden in preliminary-round play by virtue of a tiebreaker format. Sweden and the U.S. are the only teams that have won all three of their games in regulation. Russia also has three wins, but one came in overtime.

Lundqvist, who blanked Germany in his first start on Wednesday, had an easy night against the rival Finns in a rematch of the 2006 gold-medal game. He needed only 20 saves in this shutout and saw very few high-quality scoring chances.

The Swedes outshot the Finns 32-20 for the night, and only the outstanding netminding of Finland's Miikka Kiprusoff prevented the game from getting out of hand.

While it was a big night for Lundqvist, it was a disappointing one for Rangers teammate Olli Jokinen. The Finnish forward, who also lost to Lundqvist in the 2006 gold-medal game, finished with two shots on goal in 13:34 of ice time on Sunday. He had the first -- and one of the best -- shots for Finland with an in-close backhand just one munute into the game, but he spent much of his evening on the bench while Finnish teammates killed penalties.

Jokinen was a part of Finland's power play, which had dominated its first two games before going 0-for-7 against Lundqvist and the Swedes.

The good news for Finland, however, is that a 2-1 preliminary-round record earned the Finns a No. 4 seed and a bye into the quarterfinals. The Finns will not have to qualify and will instead play their next game on Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday's Czech Republic-Latvia qualifying match.

Loui Eriksson of the Dallas Stars, who scored twice for Sweden, notched the eventual game-winner during a 5-on-3 power play just 6:41 into the opening period. Eriksson put in the rebound of Nicklas Backstrom bad-angle shot from the right side. The puck actually skipped through the crease past Kiprusoff, and Eriksson was stationed just outside crease to the goaltender's right. Only 17 seconds were left in the two-man advantage when Eriksson scored.

Lundqvist faced five Finnish shots in the first period, 10 in the second and another five in the third. He saw virtually every shot, as the Finns failed to create adequate traffic in front of the net despite Jokinen's repeated attempts to screen him on the power play.

Backstrom, of the Washington Capitals, made it 2-0 at 4:19 of the second period when he took a pass from Daniel Sedin in the left circle and fired it up into top right corne. Sedin had stolen puck behind Kiprusoff's net and sent a perfect pass out to Backstrom.

Lundqvist made one his best saves just before the game's midpoint when he stopped a partial breakaway by Jere Lehtinen, who had snuck in behind the otherwise impenetrable Swedish defense. He also made a couple of stops with his mask, including one that he headed into the crowd during the third period.

Eriksson scored his second goal of game on another power play at 18:08 of the second period. The Swedish forward picked up the puck at the base of the right circle and swooped up into the slot and around the top of Kiprusoff's crease, before depositing a hard, low shot into the far corner of the net. Backstrom picked up his third point of the night with an assist on the play.

Finland caused some of its own problems, including a five-minute major to Joni Pitkanen, who was thrown out of the game for a dangerous hit to the head against Nashville forward Patrc Hornqvist.|NYR|home

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