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Title defended: Sweden no match for Canada in Sochi

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail Team Canada players pose with their gold medals after defeating Sweden 3-0 in the championship game of the Winter Olympics on Sunday morning in Sochi, Russia. Canada went undefeated in six games, only allowing three goals against en route to repeating as Olympic champions.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail
Team Canada players pose with their gold medals after defeating Sweden 3-0 in the championship game of the Winter Olympics on Sunday morning in Sochi, Russia. Canada went undefeated in 6 games, only allowing 3 goals against en route to repeating as Olympic champs.

Golden again — that has a nice ring to it.

Canada left little — make that NO — doubt which country is home to hockey supremacy by sweeping gold for the second straight Olympics. The men made it look a little — or a LOT — easier than the women in Sochi, but both Canadian teams remained atop the podium.

Larry Fisher
Larry Fisher

This time around, the women had the more suspenseful finish, rallying from a 2-0 deficit and prevailing 3-2 over the United States in overtime on Thursday — reminiscent of the men’s victory by the same score over the same opponent at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Sidney Crosby was the overtime hero back then, and he saved his best for last in Sochi as well, scoring a highlight-reel breakaway goal to give Canada some breathing room at 2-0 late in the second period. His much-maligned linemate Chris Kunitz added another insurance marker in the third after Jonathan Toews had opened the scoring in the first, and Carey Price made their offensive efforts stand up in backstopping his second straight shutout of the medal round.

When the buzzer sounded and the celebration began, the scoreboard read: Canada 3, Sweden 0.

Like the Americans before them — in Friday’s 1-0 semifinal blanking — the Swedes never really got a sniff over the final two periods. They had a handful of quality chances in the first and even hit a post behind Price, but as the game progressed, Canada’s defence was the difference yet again, and Price put to rest claims of a Canadian goaltending crisis and silenced his own critics in the process.

There was no problem between the pipes in Sochi — even Roberto Luongo recorded a shutout in his lone start, as Canada only allowed three goals in six games. That has to be some sort of record (of which I have not confirmed . . . too sleepy).

That defence corps was downright dominant — among the best ever assembled by a Canadian national team. Shea Weber and Drew Doughty were on another level, but their supporting cast certainly proved to be Olympic-calibre. That included Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who made a believer of yours truly as a stay-at-home type.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give credit where credit is due in regards to Kunitz, who was my personal whipping boy at these Games. I didn’t think he belonged on Canada’s roster over the likes of Claude Giroux, Eric Staal or even Taylor Hall, but Kunitz got better with every game and finally found the back of the net with gold hanging in the balance. On a chance that he created for himself, no less — no thanks to Crosby’s coattails.

General manager Steve Yzerman and head coach Mike Babcock are also deserving of a slow clap and heaps of praise, for making the difficult roster decisions and then getting the most out of their selections. Canada doesn’t win gold without these two masterminds and their associates.

Top to bottom, this team was built to repeat as Olympic champions and they didn’t disappoint in any way, shape or form. They, quite simply, went about their business and got the job done again in flawless fashion.

That said, Canada did essentially beat Sweden’s B-squad in the championship game. They were playing without their top three centres in Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Backstrom, who was a mysterious last-minute scratch for what was later reported to be the result of taking a banned substance.

That substance? Claritin, yes the allergy pill so many of us take on a regular basis. It seems silly that could be illegal for Olympic athletes, but rules and rules and Backstrom — or Sweden’s medical staff — should have known better.

When that announcement was made following warm-ups, it seemed the writing was already on the wall. Two hours later, it was etched in stone and Canadians were reveling — or at least rejoicing — from far and wide in the wee morning hours.

O Canada . . . that was worth staying up for!

Now, as I finally hit the sheets, I’ll leave you with my latest mash-up of thoughts from the gold-medal game courtesy my Twitter feed (LarryFisher_KDC):

10:45 p.m. = Retweet @CBCOlympics: “Here’s a motto for the next 12 hours… #CBCOlympics pic.twitter.com/2nHABJhJSa

12:11 a.m. = 4 hours til the big game! I’m sticking with my prediction of Canada 4, Sweden 2 with an empty-netter! Will say Crosby (2), Toews and Perry.

1:59 a.m. = 2 hours til puck-drop! #gamefaceon #CanadaStrong

3:38 a.m. = Well, shall we get this party started? Here’s hoping for an entertaining 1st period! #waitingisthehardestpart #tirednottired

3:41 a.m. = Listening to Glenn Healy critique these superstar goalies like Quick and now Lundqvist makes me cringe then crack up! #somuchbetterthanyou

3:43 a.m. = All this talk about Canada’s dominant defence is definitely warranted. Only 3 goals against in 5 games is unreal. Price has had it easy!

3:48 a.m. = I might be half asleep/half dreaming, but my phone just sent me a notification saying no Nicklas Backstrom for Sweden. #hugeloss #No1centre

3:49 a.m. = Conflicting reports I see here in the Twitterverse on Backstrom. He missed warm-ups but is on the lineup sheet. #staytuned

4:02 a.m. = The energy of these Canadian fans in Sochi are giving me a bit of a second wind. Almost showtime, should be a gooder!

4:03 a.m. = Backstrom has officially been ruled out by the sounds of it. Have to think his injury must be near life-threatening to miss gold-medal game!

4:06 a.m. = Grapes is fired up and looking as snazzy as ever! And with his patented “Let’s Go!” we are ready to drop the puck!

4:08 a.m. = Get this: Backstrom is sitting out with a migraine headache! How can that be? Somebody get that guy an Ibuprofen or 2 or 10! #thatsweak

4:09 a.m. = Non-NHLer Jimmie Eriksson will fill in on Sweden’s top line for Backstrom…yeah, good luck with that! #ouch #canyousaydowngrade

4:12 a.m. = Stellar setup by Crosby to Bergeron but spectacular first save by Lundqvist. Almost looked like it went in, but no dice!

4:14 a.m. = Price also equal to task on first scoring chance, aggressive challenge to gobble up slapper by Niklas Kronwall. #norebound

4:17 a.m. = Gustav Nyquist hits post behind Price on great chance and confident move by the youngster to drive the crease. He had been extra forward.

4:22 a.m. = A fast-paced start to this one with close calls at both ends…Canada sticking to super short shift plan for forwards which has worked well!

4:23 a.m. = The Swedes have had their share of puck possession so far, more than any other previous opponent against Canada.

4:30 a.m. = 1-0 Canada, Toews opens scoring on a redirect from top of crease through 5-hole on Lundqvist. I called him as one of goal-scorers! #clutch

4:36 a.m. = Canada getting a power play here with great chance to take a 2-0 lead, which would be hard for Sweden to overcome with Canada’s defence.

4:39 a.m. = Man oh man, Sid is generating chances tonight/today/this morning again. St. Louis and Benn both come close on that last shift.

4:41 a.m. = Well that’s a silly call against Kunitz…so much for the refs being in cahoots with Canada, Swedes getting late power play.

4:42 a.m. = 1-0 Canada after the 1st, Toews with the only goal so far in what has been a gold-medal calibre start as it should be.

5:00 a.m. = Second period is underway and I do feel like the Swedes are giving Canada a better game than anybody else so far. #thisisacloseone

5:04 a.m. = The dreaded delay of game penalty here against Sweden…Canada has been coming on a little bit last couple shifts, could be 2-0 here!

5:09 a.m. = Sweden kills off another penalty, still 1-0 midway through this game (well 29 min through anyway). What’s with the low scoring? #wewantgoals

5:12 a.m. = Crosby tries to split Sweden defence to no avail but there was a buzz in the building when that started to develop. He’s buzzing big time!

5:14 a.m. = Mad scramble and relentless Canadian pressure, but Lundqvist somehow keeps the puck out again!

5:18 a.m. = Ughh Weber fires wide on one-timer from slot after Kunitz made a seemingly smart play to cut behind the net and centre the puck.

5:19 a.m. = Lundqvist has been the busier of the two goalies, but Price has been solid and looks really composed too.

5:20 a.m. = Johnny Oduya just doesn’t seem Swedish…or does he? Maybe I’m only one that doesn’t see it. He’s under-rated regardless, that’s for sure!

5:23 a.m. = GOLDEN GOAL part deux! 2-0 Canada as Crosby dekes Lundqvist to backhand on breakaway for 1st goal of Olympics! #whataplayer #whataplay

5:26 a.m. = I just can’t see Sweden overcoming this two-goal deficit, they are generating less and less and Canada’s defence is all-world!

5:27 a.m. = Now Canada back to the power play to end 2nd…if this goes 3-0, I might go to bed #jk but I might take a brief break from tweeting!

5:30 a.m. = Sweden kills off that penalty but trails 2-0 after 2 periods with massive uphill battle ahead against Canada.

6:04 a.m. = Everybody’s favourite whipping boy — including yours truly — Chris (freakin) Kunitz scores by far biggest goal of his life to make it 3-0.

6:06 a.m. = I still don’t think Kunitz belongs but hey that was a hell of a shot and Sid really had nothing to do with it so credit where credit is due.

6:06 a.m. = Sweden getting power play halfway through 3rd now, this is obviously make-or-break for them…but realistically they are done like dinner!

6:07 a.m. = Erik Karlsson really hasn’t done much offensively in this game which says more about Canada’s team defence than Karlsson’s ability for sure.

6:09 a.m. = In reply to @RalphSchmengie: “I only pay attention when Crosby, Toews and Perry are on the ice because apparently @LarryFisher_KDC has seen this game already” — “that damn Kunitz character had to mess with my prediction but still, this is Canadian hockey at its finest. #sitbackandenjoy”

6:10 a.m. = In reply to Denise Fisher ‏@Denise13F: “where is #TaylorHall (over Kunitz)?” — “ya or Claude Giroux, Eric Staal, etc. And Kunitz was named ahead of Marty St. Louis initially too. I just don’t see Olympian!”

6:12 a.m. = Retweet Mike Zeisberger ‏@Zeisberger: If Backstrom did take banned “allergy meds,” someone on Swede medic/training staff will have some ‘splaining to do.

6:14 a.m. = 4 minutes to go…count it down and get out the cork-poppers (if that’s how you roll bright and early)! #reasontocelebratesoon

6:16 a.m. = Glenn Healy give your head a shake AGAIN! Sweden didn’t hand Crosby (or Kunitz to a lesser degree) goal(s), they earned them with skill!

6:16 a.m. = Yes, those goals kinda/sorta came off turnovers, but Crosby made a play that only the best player(s) in the world can make. #captainclutch

6:18 a.m. = Last minute of regulation…hats off to Carey Price for his second straight (you know what) in the medal round although defence was amazing!

6:20 a.m. = 3-0 final! Canada’s golden again! What a thorough effort from start to finish in Sochi. They were untouchable this tournament. #greatsuccess

6:21 a.m. = Granted, Canada kinda beat Sweden’s B-squad (without H Sedin, Zetterberg, Backstrom, Franzen, Hedman), but that was incredibly impressive!

6:22 a.m. = Crosby was 1 of the 3 stars today, probably go with Price and Toews for the others in that order. Great team effort though! #nopassengers

Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, B.C. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.

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