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Sweden prevails, 4-3

Oskar Steen gets shootout winner vs. Russia

Published 31.12.2017 23:13 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Sweden prevails, 4-3
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 31: Sweden's Elias Pettersson #14 with a scoring chance against Russia's Vladislav Sukhachyov #30 while fending off Dmitri Samorukov #25 during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Sweden will now play Slovakia in one quarter-finals while the Russians will have the tougher task of facing the Americans at 8pm on Tuesday night.

Steen and Linus Lindstrom scored in the shootout for Sweden while only Vitali Abramov scored for Russia.

That continues Sweden's extraordinary success in the preliminary round of the World Juniors. Their last loss was to the United States on December 31, 2006. Since that game, they have won ridiculous 44 games in a row (four in overtime) over the last eleven years.

Three times Sweden held a lead in the game, and three times the Russians rallied to tie the score.

"We played okay," offered Steen, assessing the team's play tonight. "It was an up and down game, but I think we deserved to win. I think we've played better and better in the last week, but I don't think we've played our best yet. We can do better."

"I think we played a pretty solid game all the way through," agreed Timothy Liljegren, one of Sweden's goalscorers. "We were playing against a Russian team that is really good offensively, so it feels good to get the win."

Sweden also had several great chances to put the game out of reach with a power play, including a lengthy five-on-three, but the Russian penalty killers were that little bit better and kept the score close.

Coach Valeri Bragin did what he could to win in regulation, pulling goalie Vladislav Sukhachyov in a 4-4 game in the final minute. Despite great pressure, the Swedes held their own to force overtime and ensure their first-place finish.

The first period was chaotic and chippy, to say the least. Sweden opened the scoring at 7:18 off the rush. Lias Andersson, stationed in front of the Russian goal, corralled a hard pass from Timothy Liljegren and beat Vladislav Sukhachyov with a quick backhand swipe. 

Sweden controlled play for a long stretch, but at 15:09 Russia finally evened the score. Dmitri Sokolov fired a hard shot from the slot, and this goal signalled the start of a frantic end to the period.

Liljegren made it 2-1 at 17:32 by being in the right place at the right time. Tim Soderlund made a nice play controlling the puck and walking out front, but Sukhachyov made a great glove save. The puck, however, squirted free, and Liljegren was there to pop it in for his first goal of the tournament.

"I think I had some chances in a couple of games before," he noted. "It just feels good to see the puck go in."

That lead lasted just 46 seconds, though, as Klim Kostin tied the game again. Linemate Georgi Ivanov just flipped a backhand towards the goal, and Kostin gave it some extra strength, beating Filip Gustavsson to the short side.

At the end of the period, the Swedes had a two-man advantage for 1:57 that carried over to the second, but they weren’t able to convert. Then, before those penalties expired, the Russians were called for another minor. Yet, with all this power-play time, the Swedes fired blanks.

Ditto for the Russians who had a power play of their own a bit later. The period was exciting and physical, but it provided no goals.

Just as the third looked like it woudl be scoreless and produce an overtime, the fireworks started again. Suckhachyov made a glove save, this off a high shot from Axel Jonsson Fjallby, but again it popped out and dropped in the crease. Glenn Gustafsson merely tapped it in at 14:21 to give Sweden its third lead of the night.

But as with the other leads, this didn't last. Less than two minutes later, Alexei Polodyan got a rebound left by Gustavsson, making no mistake with the chance and tying the game, 3-3.

The overtime was cautious, dominated by Sweden's possession without creating many shots, leaving the result to be decided by the shootout.

"I think we have a really good group here," Liljegren added. "We have a lot of fun outside the rink. I have a good feeling about this team. Hopefully we can get a medal."