For the second straight Games, the Russian athletes will be playing for the gold medal in the men's Olympic hockey tournament. The Russian Olympic Committee took down Sweden by a score of 2-1 in an exciting shootout dazzler early Friday morning to advance to the men's final, where they will take on Finland for the title.
ROC forward Arseny Gritsyuk netted the shootout winner in the eighth round after the Swedes failed to beat Russian netminder Ivan Fedotov in five straight attempts. Sweden led 2-1 in the shootout going into the fifth round, but Nikita Gusev scored a clutch goal to force extra innings.
"We believed in each other and we believed in the guys that went out to do shoot penalties," said ROC forward Vadim Shipachyov.
"(Fedotov) is a beauty. Everybody who shot, we were united, and the whole team is happy that we are moving on."
The tilt got off to a blistering pace in the opening stanza with both teams generating quality chances. There were big plays happening left and right, from clutch saves to massive hits, but somehow neither team was able to find the back of the net through the game's first 20 minutes.
It sure didn't take long for someone to find the back of the net in the second frame, though. Just 15 seconds into the middle third, ROC forward Anton Slepyshev powered his way to the Sweden net and beat goaltender Lars Johansson to give his squad the 1-0 lead. The former Edmonton Oiler put together a Herculean performance, creating numerous scoring chances throughout the contest. He also laid out to make a clutch block early in the 10-minute 3-on-3 overtime period to negate a potentially dangerous scoring chance for Sweden.
Despite some heavy pressure from the ROC in the second period, the Russian athletes were unable to extend their lead prior to the second intermission.
Unlike the second period, the Swedes played with a ton of desperation in the third, and it paid off for them as forward Anton Lander netted the equalizer 6:22 into the final frame. Unfortunately, Sweden was unable to beat Fedotov again in regulation or in the OT period.
Fedotov, as he has been for most of the tournament, was sensational for the ROC in the semifinal. The 25-year-old netminder, selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, stopped 34 of Sweden's 35 shots on net to earn his fourth win in Beijing. He now owns a .944 save percentage and 1.53 goals against average at the Olympics.
Puck drop for the gold medal game between the ROC and Finland is set for 11:10 p.m. ET Saturday night. Sweden and Slovakia will compete for bronze Saturday morning at 8:10 p.m. ET.