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Swedes stamp out 12 years of frustration

Tell the Swedish post office to dust off that old Peter Forsberg stamp. The hockey team is one win from another gold medal.

Forsberg set up a goal by the Lightning's Fredrik Modin 34 seconds into the game and Sweden scored four times in the second to rout the Czech Republic 7-3 in a semifinal Friday. Sweden moves into Sunday's title game against neighbor and longtime rival Finland.

The Swedes are guaranteed a medal for the first time since 1994, when Forsberg scored the winning goal to beat Canada in a gold-medal shootout and the country put his image on a postage stamp to commemorate the occasion.

Forsberg, who sat out three games of this tournament because of a sore groin, set the tone early against the Czech Republic. His cross-ice pass landed softly on the stick of Modin, who quickly turned it into a goal.

Suddenly, the Swedes were flying high, venting two Olympics' worth of frustration on the world champion Czechs.

"It was just good luck on the first puck of the game, and we never came back from that," Czech forward Martin Straka said. "I guess we ran out of gas. We were very tired with so many games, but everybody is in the same boat."

Sweden, surprising quarterfinal loser the past two Olympics, ran over the Dominik Hasek-less Czechs, scoring four straight times after falling into a 1-1 tie on a goal by Filip Kuba on which the Lightning's Vinny Prospal had an assist.

One goal on one shot and three scores in the first 7:54 of the second drove shaky goalie Milan Hnilicka to the bench.

The Swedes charged from all angles and used brilliant passing that sliced the offensive zone from end to end and side to side. The European style of play shone through on the large Olympic playing surface.

"We came out hard on the ice and showed them we wanted to win," Forsberg said.

The Czechs' defense was almost nonexistent, and Hnilicka wasn't sharp enough to bail out his teammates.

"We didn't have our defense playing, and they took us apart," Prospal said. "That was the biggest reason why they scored seven goals."

Ales Hemsky and Prospal scored 45 seconds apart midway through the middle period to give the Czechs life. They couldn't sustain it despite receiving a four-minute power play.

Daniel Alfredsson snuffed out any remaining Czechs chances when he found the net from the slot with one knee on the ice and a minute remaining in the period to make it 6-3.

Teamwork puts Finland

in gold-medal game

TURIN, Italy - The Finns are playing as a team, not as selfish stars, in an Olympics where they have eliminated all the big countries and many of hockey's big names.

Saku Koivu and Ville Peltonen each scored a goal and set up one as Finland beat Russia 4-0 in the other semifinal to set up the border battle with Sweden.

"Obviously, if you were born in Finland, you want to play Sweden. That's the ultimate," Ville Nieminen said.

Finland is winning by following the most basic concept in team play: Togetherness can win out over superior talent.

"I've never been on a team that's so tight and together," Kimmo Timonen said. "Everybody's doing their job and working very hard, and now this is a big thing we've done as a group for our country."

The day before the semifinals, Czech star Jaromir Jagr said the Russians were the best team remaining, but only if they played as a team, a common problem for them in recent years. They didn't on Friday, and now they're back in the bronze-medal game today for a second straight Olympics.

"We got what we deserved," goalie Evgeni Nabokov said. "I think the score pretty much sums it up. We did not play well, and we did not deserve to win. They were hungrier than we were, and I don't know why."

Finland seized control early with Peltonen's goal at 6:13 of the first and never let go. With a trapping-style defense, it didn't allow Russia's fleet forwards to create the numerous odd-man rushes it enjoyed in beating Canada 2-0 in the quarterfinals.

The Finns visibly frustrated Russia's top playmakers, Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, with their defensive persistence, always seeming to have a defender within a stick's length of them no matter where they were on the ice.