SOCHI, Russia – Canada’s men’s hockey team was one of the favorites to win the gold medal here when the Winter Games began, and throughout the tournament it lived up to the billing, steamrolling Norway and Austria before winning battles over Finland, Latvia and the United States.
The Canadians had so many weapons that it was easy to overlook Sidney Crosby, their captain and perhaps their most talented player. Before the gold medal game against Sweden on Sunday, he had no goals and just two assists.
But with a flair for the dramatic, Crosby made his presence felt Sunday when he scored a breakaway goal in the second period that seemed to deflate the Swedish team that struggled to keep up with the Canadians for much of the game.
Canada won 3-0 and defended its Olympic title.
Canada is the first team to repeat as Olympic champion since the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Sweden, which won the gold medal in 1994 and 2006, settled for the silver medal here.
Crosby was one of 11 teammates who also played on the men’s gold medal team in Vancouver. He had four goals and three assists in that tournament. Crosby has regained his form with the Pittsburgh Penguins after several seasons battling injuries, including a serious concussion.
In the gold medal game, as always, he remained a major threat. With less than five minutes left in the second period, as Canada poured on the shots and stifled Sweden’s momentum, Crosby raced down the left side, shifted to his right and flipped a backhand shot beyond the left skate of Sweden’s sprawling goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist.
Crosby’s first goal of the tournament put Canada up 2-0 and brought loud cheers from the sizable Canadian contingent in the Bolshoy Ice Dome. It also turned an otherwise tight game into one dominated by the Canadians.
“It was nice to get that one and get the cushion,” Crosby said. “We all knew the U.S. game was our best game, and we all felt if we played the exact same way we’d get the same result.”
Crosby said Canada’s victory here was not as dramatic as the gold medal the team won four years ago. Indeed, before Sunday’s game, Canada and Sweden were evenly matched, both with 5-0 records.
The teams skated with energy and purpose in the first period before Canada broke through at the 12:55 mark when Jeff Carter fired a pass to Jonathan Toews, who was in front of the net and tipped it between Lundqvist’s legs, for his first goal of the tournament.
“It’s a big disappointment, obviously, being this close to a gold medal,” Lundqvist said. “But I think Canada definitely deserved to win tonight. They were the better team.”
Lundqvist and Canadian goaltender Carey Price were tested often, but Lundqvist had to make more desperate saves.
Lundqvist said injuries played no part in his team’s performance. Sweden played without star forward Nicklas Backstrom, who did not dress for the game after testing positive for a banned substance, pseudoephedrine, which his Olympic committee said was in an allergy medication he has been taking for years.
“Well, I think all the countries were missing guys,” Lundqvist said. “Of course, we had some big guys missing, but so did all the other countries.”
As the game wore on, the Swedes appeared to be skating uphill as they tried to keep up with Canada’s speedy forwards and aggressive defense. Canada’s impressive performance took some of the tension out of the game, especially after Chris Kunitz scored the team’s third and final goal about halfway through the third period.
“You know, we worked so hard and prepared so much for this,” Price said of winning the gold medal. “We felt like we had it kind of wrapped up with about five minutes left. You know, we kind of had time to prepare mentally.”