Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Sweden - 2006 Olympic Games
Spotlight
One on One Turning Point

Sweden - 2006 Olympic Games
Sweden's Nicklas Lidstrom #5 and Mats Sundin #13 celebrating after a 3-2 win over Finland in the gold medal game of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.
Sweden's Nicklas Lidstrom #5 and Mats Sundin #13 celebrating after a 3-2 win over Finland in the gold medal game of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Hockey Canada Images)
Many fans regard the 2002 Olympic gold medal final between Canada and the United States as arguably the best Olympic hockey game in recent memory. Others will point to the same two teams charging into overtime in 2010's gold medal final as the most memorable. Sadly, most have forgotten about just how terrific the 2006 Olympic gold medal contest between Sweden and Finland truly was.

The path to the final game is mired in some controversy. Did Sweden actually lose to Slovakia purposely in order to find an easier route to the final by way of Switzerland? The players will deny the fact forever, but Sweden's coach, Bengt-Ake Gustafsson, made the mistake of referring to Canada and the Czech Republic by saying "one is cholera and the other, the plague."

Nevertheless, Sweden and Finland, fierce rivals, earned the right to compete for Olympic gold in 2006. Finland was hoping for its first Olympic gold while Sweden was looking to avenge an enormous upset to Belarus in 2002.

The ice hockey contest was the final Olympic event in Turin, Italy that year, and spectators at Palasport Olimpico were riveted. Finland had been brilliant in this tournament, allowing just five goals in seven consecutive victories on the path to the gold medal game.

Team Sweden celebrate after a 3-2 gold medal game win over Team Finland at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Hockey Canada Images)
Kimmo Timonen scored for the Finns on a powerplay to give his country a 1-0 lead after one period. Sweden tied the game on a powerplay of its own, with Henrik Zetterberg potting the goal, and then pulled ahead on yet another powerplay, this time by Niklas Kronwall. Finland scored its second goal when Jussi Jokinen flipped the puck from behind the Swedish net to Ville Peltonen, who beat Lundqvist to tie the game.

Peter Forsberg took the opening faceoff of the third period, winning the draw and carrying the puck into the Finnish zone. He passed to Mats Sundin, who backhanded a pass to Nicklas Lidstrom, who was following the play. The Detroit defender wound up and drove a bullet from the blueline that found the net behind Niittymaki just ten seconds into the period.

"That was a great goal by three great guys," beamed Daniel Sedin. "They've been an example to younger Swedish guys for a long time, so it's great to see them do it."

Henrik Lundqvist turned aside every attempt by Finland to even the score, so Lidstrom's goal stood as the Olympic gold-winning goal. "We couldn't score during the last period to get the tie and that was our problem," shrugged Jarkko Ruutu of Finland. "We had many opportunities. It's hard to face. We won all our previous games, but we lost the final."

When the final buzzer sounded, the Swedes tossed their gloves and sticks into the air in celebration and mobbed each other in front of their team's bench. It was a second gold medal for Sweden, who had also won the Olympic tournament in 1994 on a shoot-out goal by Forsberg. "I was only 20 years old, and I didn't know how hard it was going to be to get back to the Olympic final," he stated.

"I think I appreciate this one more."

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.