Rangers forward Rick Nash picked up the second Olympic gold medal of his career, while Blueshirt teammates Henrik Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin collected silver medals, Sunday as Canada defeated Sweden 3-0 in the gold medal contest at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Both Nash and Lundqvist were seeking their second career gold medals, but it was Nash's Canadian squad that was the better team on Sunday, despite a brilliant 33-save performance by Lundqvist, who has now medaled in two of the three Olympics he has participated in.
"I was proud to be here," Lundqvist told Bruce Beck from NBS Television after the game. "It's disappointing, but Sochi was awesome! I miss playing at The Garden!"
Jonathan Toews scored on a deflection in front 12:55 into the first period to give Canada the crucial game-opening goal. Sidney Crosby then scored his first goal of the tournament, on a clean breakaway against Lundqvist, with 4:17 remaining in the second period to provide the Canadians a two-goal cushion. Chris Kunitz roofed his first goal of the Olympics over Lundqvist's right shoulder at 9:04 of the third period to completely take the wind out of Sweden's sails.
Incredibly, Canada never trailed--not only Sunday, but for the entire 2014 Olympic tournament--and they surrendered only three goals in six games.
"Our defense was really good," Nash told reporters postgame. "It's a cliche but defense wins championships."
Canada came out strong--Lundqvist was forced to make his first big-time stop just 58 seconds into the game, stoning Patrice Bergeron on a 2-on-1 down low--though the Swedes played to fairly even terms throughout most of the opening 20 minutes. However as the game progressed Canada simply wore down Sweden, just as they did to the United States in the semifinals on Friday.
Playing a stifling defense and with surgical precision, the Canadians cotrolled all three zones of the ice, and , if not for Lundqvist, could have finished with a much larger margin of victory. When tested, Canadian goaltender Carey Price was extremely sharp, posting his second consecutive shutout and finishing with 24 saves.
Nash played his best game of the tournament, even despite being held off the scoresheet. Relentless on the forecheck, and a standout on Canada's top penalty killing unit, Nash also made several gorgeous passes to set up scoring chances--perhaps none better than his second period dish into the slot that resulted in a Grade A opportunity for Martin St. Louis that required another huge stop by Lundqvist.
Sweden's most effective line featured Hagelin, Marcus Kruger, and Gustav Nyquist, though even their best success was in the first period as Canada limited their chances drastically over the final 40 minutes of play. Nyquist rang a shot off the post early in the opening period after a terrific shift of forechecking by Hagelin, who played in all game situations--even strength, power play, and penalty kill--for Sweden on Sunday. Hagelin played 16 minutes 4 seconds on Sunday, his highest ice-time total of the 2014 Winter Games. He finished with three shots on goal.
The three Blueshirts who played in Sunday's Gold Medal Game will return to New York on Monday along with fellow Ranger Olympians Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh, and Derek Stepan, and are expected to practice with the team Wednesday prior to Thursday's return to action against the Chicago Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden.