It took only sixteen years, but once again, Finland are the World Champions. The IIHF's Twitter feed stated that it was the first time since the 1995 Champions that Finland didn't have a player from that original championship roster, and officially the torch for a new batch of Finnish heroes to start a massive party throughout all of Suomi was passed.
And once again, it came at the expense of their top rivals, Sweden.
The game itself started very tight, which was expected. A scoreless first went by with only a few chances between the two teams, while penalties started to open up the game in the second period. Shortly after Tim Erixon made two saves on a flurry in front of the Sweden goal, Magnus Paajarvi wristed home the opening goal for Sweden. Sweden then had consecutive power play opportunities, giving them a real chance to take full control of the game, but only managed a goalpost. A late penalty to David Petrasek gave Finland a chance they probably didn't deserve to tie the game going into the third period. Jarkko Immonen blasted home his tournament leading ninth goal, thanks to a screen from Tuomo Ruutu, with only seven seconds to play in the period.
The third period opened, and a nervous Sweden team was, for lack of a better word, pounced on by the Finnish Lions. A Petrasek giveaway at the blueline led to a two on one for Finland's fourth line, with Antti Pihlstrom feeding Petteri Nokelainen for what turned out to be the golden goal. Niko Kapanen was the recipient of another goal created off a Swedish turnover down low just 46 seconds later, giving the Finns the coveted two goal lead that Sweden couldn't build in the second period. The Finns entered lockdown mode, and Sweden barely got close to Finnish goalie Petri Vehanen. When Mikael Granlund dumped the puck in and Janne Pesonen blew by Swedish defender Oliver Ekman-Larsson for Finland's fourth goal, Sweden seemed to just quit playing. The final score of 6-1 was more dominating than the game really played out, as Swedish goalie and tournament MVP Viktor Fästh looked deflated by allowing stoppable shots from Mika Pyorala and Antti Pihlstrom.
And now, they are partying in the streets of Helsinki, Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Espoo, Vantaa, Jyväskylä, Lahti, Pori and well... everywhere in the land that gave us Jari Kurri, Teemu Selanne, Reijo Ruotsalainen, Teppo Numminen, Miikka Kiprusoff, Saku Koivu, Jere Lehtinen and many, many more.
Finland will enter next year's tournament as not only the primary hosts, but the defending champions. Sweden will have extra motivation: to win gold next year IN Helsinki would be an excellent revenge. Earlier in the day, the Czech Republic capped off their excellent tournament with a highly entertaining 7-4 win over Russia, which developed an edge to it after a wide open start. Roman Cervenka notched a hat trick for the Czechs, as Russia went home empty handed from the World Championships for the first time since 2007.
Russia is still #1 in the IIHF's World Ranking, something I'll look at a bit more tomorrow. In the meantime, this is Finland's moment. I mentioned street parties throughout the country, and here's some pictures to check out from Helsinki. And I'll have to put a NFSW rating (as in NOT SAFE FOR WORK) on this next photo... Finnish fans take to a fountain in the city square in Tampere, strip down and celebrate.
I'm sure we'll see some crazy videos uploaded to YouTube in the meantime. Meanwhile, here's some video tribute for the game. First the highlights, in Finnish... feel the excitement build!
Now some celebrations in Helsinki (poor quality):
And finally, a fitting musical tribute to the team... "Gold Lion" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs: