VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Oh, hello there again, Tommy Salo.
We named the 2002 Olympic upset of Sweden by Belarus the No. 1 stunner of the last decade, writing:
"For sure, it is a miracle for us ... But sometimes a gun without bullets can shoot, and that was us. We've made our place in history."
That was Belarus goalie Andrei Mezin, and we're still not entirely sure what that metaphor meant, although it's vaguely sexual. Here's what we did know: Belarus had been outscored 16-2 in its earlier two games. It was a 10 million-to-1 shot to win the gold. A guy named Andrei Mezin was their goalie. Ruslan Salei(notes) was their only NHL player.
Despite all of this, Belarus found a way to slow down the Swedes' attack and play even with the international powerhouse until one of the single most stunning moments in recent Olympic history, courtesy of Vladimir Kopat and soon-to-be-hockey-punchline Tommy Salo.
Belarus won, 4-3, advancing to the semifinals, where they lost to Canada, 7-1. In the immortal words of former Toronto Maple Leafs star Mats Sundin(notes): "I don't understand how we could lose against this team."
The teams meet at 3 p.m. EST/noon PST. Sweden comes off a tight win against a tough German team, 2-0. Belarus is banged up and was blown out by Finland, 5-1. We'll be offering live thoughts on this game throughout the day. Use the comments as an open thread, and check back here for news and views.
Business picks up at the 3:46 mark, as Henrik Zetterberg(notes) hacks away at Mezin while he attempts to freeze the puck, and Ruslan Salei
dumps him on his ass clears the crease. Nice little scrum between teams ensues, with Zetter getting the lone roughing call for some reason.
(More after jump.)
Sweden 1-0 (6:40, 1st)
Local boy makes good: Daniel Sedin(notes) scores on his own rebound, from a pretty pass in back of the net from Herik Sedin. They both hear loud ovations from the crowd; wonder what happens if/when they play Canada?
Sweden 2-0 (9:04, 2nd)
This tournament is filled with star-studded lines that aren't clicking. The Daniel Alfredsson(notes)/Nicklas Backstrom/Loui Eriksson(notes) group is not one of them. They connect again, on the power play, to give the Swedes a 2-goal advantage. With Ericksson in from of Mezin, Sweden's Magnus Johansson(notes) sends a pass through the crease to a cutting Alfredsson. Nice bit of chemistry again from this line and the power play.
Did a segment on The Score in Canada that I thought would last until Sochi, so catching up. Goal by Johan Frazen on a nasty one-timer and answered by Aleksander Kulakov on the power play to give Belarus life, so we're 3-1 heading into the third.
Awesome save by Mezin on Hernik Sedin at 15:34: Puck off the post on a point shot, Sedin get the rebound and Mezin dives to smother the rebound. Belarus looks much better than they did against the Finns.
Number of Viking hats spotted > number of blondes in tight white shirts for Sweden. Sadly.
Belarus (3-2 Sweden; 11:33, 3rd)
And we've got ourselves a hockey game. Franzen get the puck stolen at the defensive blue line by Andrei Stas. Alexsandr Kulakov fires a shot that the Monster saves, but the fat rebound goes right to Dmitri Meleshko for the goal. Crowd explodes for Belarus.
Moments later, Aleksei Ugarov rings one off the iron for Belarus. Swedes are reeling. The chants begin: "Bel-ah-roos!" All of this has happened before and is happening again?
Sweden 4-2 (19:50, 3rd)
Nice work by the Swedes to put this one away, as the Sedins set up Alfredsson for the final tally (and with Mezin still in goal).
Alas, with the crowd amped up, time ran out on the Christmas-tree jersey'd Belarusians. Not enough fire power. The Swedes definitely hung on for this one, as Gustavsson made a couple of good saves late. Sweden guts out another one.
- Andrei Mezin