Intangible turned tangible for Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and the Canadian men’s hockey team on Sunday at Sochi’s Bolshoy Ice Dome, as they completed a terrifyingly good Olympics with a 3-0 dismantling of Sweden in the gold medal game (BOX SCORE).
Not only did the result deliver a second consecutive gold to Team Canada, it also featured a goal each from Crosby and Kunitz. The Pittsburgh Penguins teammates had been maligned north of the border for their lack of production in the tournament, even though their line had consistently generated chances when they were together.
Crosby, the Canadian captain, put his second gold medal within realistic view with an unassisted breakaway goal with 4:17 to go in the second period, making it 2-0. Crosby stripped the puck from Swedish defenseman Jonathan Ericsson at the Canada blue line, then streaked in on goalie Henrik Lundqvist and tucked a backhand around the Rangers star’s left leg for his first goal of the tournament.
Nine minutes into the third, Crosby helped Kunitz break his scoring drought when he forced a turnover in the neutral zone for Kunitz to pick up. The first-time Olympian, derided as out of his depth by many Canadian commentators and fans, gunned a perfect shot off the crossbar and in.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had made it 1-0 midway through the first period by redirecting Jeff Carter‘s feed to the goalmouth under Lundqvist. Canada allowed two goals in six games, a new modern Olympic standard, and didn’t trail in the entire tournament.
Sweden, playing without top-line injured forwards Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen for the entire Oympics, got tough news before the gold medal game when the IOC suspended Nicklas Backstrom for use of a banned substance. Still, the Canadians were likely to shut down any offense in the world with their committed brand of team play and overwhelming skill.
In a tournament on the larger international ice surface, defense and puck possession had the edge over scoring. Canada tailored its game accordingly, a credit to coach Mike Babcock and his staff. The patient approach caused angst because of all the firepower at Canada’s disposal, but it paid off handsomely.
Canadian goalie Carey Price, who also shut out the Americans in the semifinals, stopped 24 shots to complete a terrific two weeks. He wasn’t tested much against Sweden, although Gustav Nyquist‘s early jam play rang off the post behind him, keeping the game scoreless until Toews broke through.
As for the 26-year-old Crosby, you can add another signature moment to his sterling career. He had just two assists entering the game despite his dominant play, but he received the ultimate payoff. The Penguins are hoping he can add a second Stanley Cup to match his pair of Olympic gold medals.