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Sweden's stars clinch gold

Sweden's trio of hockey stars somehow found each other amid the joyous flag-waving and flower-tossing by their Olympic teammates, and shared one final hug. This was the last time Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin and Nicklas Lidstrom would be together, and they knew it.

That they combined for the winning goal only begins to illustrate what they have meant to their country, their team, their sport.

Sweden's three most accomplished players came through in its biggest game, with Lidstrom scoring the winner 10 seconds into the third period on assists by Sundin and Forsberg in a 3-2 victory Sunday over rival Finland for the men's hockey gold medal.

"I think this generation of players, we are getting older, and this is probably our last chance, so it's great," said Sundin, the Toronto Maple Leafs' captain.

"That was a great goal by three great guys," teammate Daniel Sedin said. "It was a good fit for it to come down to that."

The winner came so quickly, Finland goalie Antero Niittymaki almost didn't react.

Forsberg, playing despite a severe groin injury that kept him out of the Philadelphia Flyers' last eight games, grabbed the puck after the faceoff and fed ahead to Sundin. His perfect-as-can-be drop pass to the blue line was one-timed by Lidstrom past Niittymaki.

"Mats laid it out for me. I tried to shoot high on the blocker side and I hit it perfectly," Lidstrom said.

The two telling moments for Finland came in the first and last minute of the third period. With 20 seconds remaining, Olli Jokinen had a nearly open net as he stood along the last post but, somehow, couldn't get the puck past goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

"It happened so quickly. I was able to get the puck toward the back door. But he robbed me, and made a nice save," Jokinen said. "That's what winning goalies are able to do."

Lundqvist of the New York Rangers made 25 saves in outplaying fellow NHL rookie Niittymaki, the Flyers goalie who shut out three of his previous five opponents.

Afterward, the Finns wondered if the schedule finally got to them.

"You play eight games in 12 days, and the one thing that's realistic is we're not as deep as the other top 3-4 countries," Saku Koivu said. "It's like the chance of a lifetime."

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