By Kristina Rutherford – Sportsnet
Finland picked up the first win of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey — in pre-tournament play, anyway.
The Finns took down their rivals from Sweden on Thursday in overtime in front of a hometown crowd at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, winning 3-2 in their first tune-up.
Olli Maatta scored the winner on a wrist shot that went in off the post with 42.9 seconds to go in OT, securing the win for the Finns, who are one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in this tournament.
The teams meet again Sept. 20 in Toronto, and if this tilt was any indication, it’ll be a barn-burner. (Also, Henrik Lundqvist will be in net for Sweden. He was a healthy scratch Thursday).
Here are our takeaways from this pre-tournament matchup:
3-on-3 OT is a treat
Watching Erik Karlsson along with Daniel and Henrik Sedin do whatever they want on the ice in overtime in the 3-on-3 format is really fun. For much of OT, Finland was just watching. Goalie Pekka Rinne stood on his head and the Finns really didn’t get the puck out of their end until the final rush, when Maatta scored. Until then it was tic-tac-toe plays, and Swedes wheeling around like they were playing against a Peewee team. Overtime is going to be one of the best things about this tournament, no matter what team you’re watching. A side note: We ought to soak up watching the Sedins on the international stage, because who knows how many more chances we’ll get. The twins turn 36 during this tournament.
A not-so-pre-tournament feel
Aleksander Barkov punched Karlsson in the face right in front of a ref, Gabriel Landeskog followed up a high check with a cross-check, and Leo Komarov started a scuffle in front of the Swedish bench — who said this was a tune-up? There’s a long standing rivalry between these two countries, and you could see it from the drop of the puck, and by way of the many slashes and cross checks doled out after the whistle. The tempo was up right out of the gate, too. Watch Karlsson streak up the ice on a rush and it’s as if summer never happened.
Jets fans, rejoice
Patrik Laine didn’t score a hat trick or undress Victor Hedman or convert on any of his chances on the power play, but the 18-year-old from Tampere was definitely noticeable out there. It’s probably because he’s six foot five, very fast, and he has filthy hands. Did you know his nickname back home is Patsyuk? (Get it?) The second-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft is going to look awfully good in a Winnipeg Jets uniform in a few weeks from now.
Have you seen Sweden’s defence? It’s ridiculous. First off, they didn’t have their No. 1 in goal for this one. And a couple giveaways did lead to two goals in regulation. But you could probably do OK with a midget goalie back there when you have Karlsson, Hedman, Anton Stralman and Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the blue line. Hedman put it best when he told reporters before the game: “Obviously our D core is obviously looking pretty good.” Obviously.
Refs are warming up, too
There were some interesting calls in this one, and let’s blame the summer holidays. You could see Carl Hagelin wondering for a while where that hooking penalty he got came from. Ekman-Larsson scored on a top-shelf wrist shot and it was called back for interference, but it was tough to tell where the interference happened. All we know is a Finnish ref saw it, and since there are no video replays, the call on the ice stood. The good news about all the calls is that we got to see a lot of power plays, which is spectacular with this level of talent out on the ice.
With Finland edging Sweden in this one, the table is set for their round-robin meeting on Sept. 20. Lundqvist will be a massive difference-maker, and you have to like Sweden to win that one. This team is awfully good, even though they didn’t come away with a win Thursday. Before the game, Karlsson was asked about their weaknesses: “I don’t think we have any,” he said.