By Josh Ferguson
A new Olympic champion will be crowned in Vancouver after the Slovaks pulled off a shocking upset of the Swedes with a 4-3 victory at Canada Hockey Place Wednesday.
Pavol Demitra collected a goal and pair of helpers and Marian Hossa continued his solid tournament with three assists in the back-and-forth contest.
After a scoreless first that saw each team collect seven shots apiece, Sweden was nailed for too many men on the ice to give Slovakia a power play 6:19 into the middle frame. The Slovaks would capitalize on the ensuing man advantage when Hossa made a beautiful cross-ice pass to Marian Gaborik that the sniper one-timed past Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The goal on Lundqvist was his first in 147 minutes and 34 seconds of play in these Olympics.
Once the Slovak’s broke the seal, Andrej Sekera made it a two-goal lead just 37 seconds after Gaborik’s power play marker.
But Sweden would respond in the exact same way as Slovakia opened the scoring – two goals in 37 seconds.
After Patric Hornqvist collected the first Swedish goal, the mystery regarding the whereabouts of Henrik Zetterberg was solved when he threw a pass on net that deflected off of Slovak defenseman Milan Jurcina and into the net to tie the game.
Sweden’s Tobias Enstrom took a penalty after his team tied the game up, though, and Demitra would make them pay when he fired a slap shot from the top of the circle that beat a screened Lundqvist. The Slovaks managed to collect three goals on just four shots in the second period to take a 3-2 lead into the intermission.
Tomas Kopecky would add some insurance for Slovakia in the third period, but following the scoring-in-bunches theme in this game, Daniel Alfredsson responded for Sweden just 38 seconds later. That was as close as the Swedes would come, though, and Slovakia would hang on for their second upset of the tournament.
Jaroslav Halak stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced for the win, while Lundqvist was lit up for four goals on just 14 shots.
By advancing to the semifinals, Slovakia is guaranteed a shot at an Olympic medal for the first time in their country’s short history at the tournament.
Zdeno Chara – who has been incredible for Slovakia by averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time per game – will be play a huge role in their semifinal match with Canada as the Slovaks look to play spoiler again on Friday night.