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Swedes top Finns 2-1 to reach Sochi Olympics gold medal game

Photo: Martin Rose/Getty Images

All hail the King: Henrik Lundqvist preserved a slim lead and Sweden's shot at gold.

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Erik Karlsson scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 25 shots, lifting Sweden over Finland 2-1 on Friday and into the gold-medal game at the Sochi Olympics.

The 2006 Olympic champions will face the United States or Canada on Sunday. The Finns will play the loser of the second semifinal for bronze on Saturday.

All the scoring came in the second, beginning with Olli Jokinen's goal from a sharp angle to the left of Lundqvist at 6:17 into the period that put Finland ahead 1-0.

Sweden's Loui Eriksson tied the game by finishing off a sweet sequence of passes midway through the period. Karlsson made it 2-1 with a slap shot from the middle of the ice just inside the blue line with 3:34 remaining.

Kari Lehtonen made 23 saves for the Finns while filling in for Tuukka Rask, who didn't play because of an unspecified illness.

Lehtonen kept his team in the game, but the defensive-minded Finns struggled to generate many scoring chances. When they did, Lundqvist made the stops required. It was yet another strong performance from the goaltender who led the Swedes to gold eight years ago, when they beat Finland in the finals of the Turin Games.

Sweden coach Par Marts seemed to fire up - or at least annoy - Finland's players and coaches by predicting Russia would advance to play his team in the semifinals. But the Finns couldn't turn the bulletin-board material into enough energy to make a difference against a team that seems to have more talent.

They did, though, get off to a good start.

Jokinen beat the Swedes to a puck and scored what seemed to be a relatively soft goal against Lundqvist, shooting past him from just above the goal line.

The Finns are usually good at keeping leads by clogging the middle of the ice, forcing teams to the outside of the wider ice surface used in international play, but they were unable Friday to stop Sweden in a pair of pivotal moments.

Eriksson scored from the right side of the net, benefiting from tape-to-tape passes from Jonathan Ericsson and Nicklas Backstrom after Daniel Sedin forced Olli Maatta into a turn over.

Less than 5 minutes later, Karlsson didn't need as much help. His long blast beat Lehtonen's blocker for a goal that gives Sweden a shot to win what might be the last Olympic gold medal with NHL players in the tournament.

The world's top professional league and its players' union have yet to commit to playing in the Pyeongchang Games in 2018, and both sides said this past week that decision could be made within six months.

Sweden improved to 7-2-3 in Olympic matchups against Finland and can join Canada as the only country to win two gold medals since NHL players began participating in the Olympics at the Nagano Games.

The Finns beat Sweden, their Scandinavian neighbor, in those games and went on to win bronze. They have won three medals in the NHL era, more than any other nation.

Finland's Juhamatti Aaltonen, who scored the tying goal in a win that eliminated the host Russians in the quarterfinals, went to the dressing room early in the third period with an ailment that wasn't announced.

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MUIR: Setting up USA vs. Canada, more must-read stories

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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