SHL Finals: Lehkonen's Frölunda grabs Game One win over Skellefteå
A sold out Skellefteå Kraft Arena hosted the first game of the SHL Finals between Skellefteå and Frölunda.
With two loud fan sections and, for the first time of the playoffs, The Swedish Anthem, everything was set for a spectacular start. The Skellefteå fans' tifo was a black and yellow Super Mario that pushed down a red Frölunda dragon. Absolutely brilliant! Let's see if the Frölunda fans can match it tomorrow in Gothenburg.
Frölunda took charge early on, and drew first blood after a good forecheck and pass from Joel Lundqvist behind the net. After a good shot from Andrew Calof, Niclas Burström got the rebound on the net from close to the post, and this drew some commotion. The referees called it "no goal" on the ice, and a situation room review determined it "inconclusive" as you could not see that the puck had crossed the line. While it was being reviewed, the goal song was played as the replay was shown on the scoreboard.
The close call kicked Skellefteå into a higher gear, as they dominated proceedings for the next several minutes, but Calof got his revenge with a beautiful shot that went in top corner.
The first period ended with the score at 1-1, and Frölunda should have been happy with that outcome.
At the start of the the second period Frölunda had a couple of penalties go against them, and while they kept those clean, Skelleteå kept applying the pressure.
Frölunda, with Artturi Lehkonen involved in the scrum in front of the net, appeared to tie it up, but another review correctly called the goal back, as Ryan Lasch was deemed to have interfered with Skellefteå goalkeeper Magnus Svensson. While the push wasn't a hard one, it appeared that Svensson injured his left leg on the play and was taken off. This could potentially have a huge impact in the series. Erik Hanses came in and did a good job in relief.
In the last minutes of the second period, Skellefteå scored a goal to go into the intermission with a 2-1 lead, but it should probably have been a bit more with all their chances.
In an intermission interview with Head Coach Roger Rönnberg, he said "we will take the hand brake off now," and Frölunda did just that. They created a power play early into the final period, and on that chance, Lehkonen ripped a shot toward the goal, and Joey Crabb tipped the puck into the net for the equalizer.
Lehkonen was indirectly involved in the go-ahead goal as well, taking a stick in the face to draw another power play (even though it happened to be the stick of his own teammate that ended up hitting him in a scrum along the boards). Frölunda seized the opportunity on the power play again, as Lukas Bengtson got the goal on a direct shot from the Ovechkin position, though he only got a fraction of the Capitals' captain's usual velocity, which might have thrown off Hanses in the end.
Frölunda scored an insurance empty-net goal, which turned out to be the game-winner when Skellefteå grabbed one back immediately afterward. Skellefteå got one more chance for the tying goal with a couple of seconds left, but Burström's shot went just wide.
All in all it was a great game, though a tie through regulation requiring sudden death might have been a better result. We await news from Skellefteå with regards of Svensson's injury, and hopefully, for the good of the series, it isn't a major ailment. It's the third injury in this year's playoff to a goalkeeper, and I expect there will be adjustments in the off-season for more protection to the netminders for next season.
It was another good game by Lehkonen; just what we have come to expect from him in the playoffs. With his assist today he took a share of the lead in playoff scoring, but now finds himself in a three-way tie for the goal lead with Calof and Wallmark. Lehkonen was -1 in today's game, although that came after Lasch lost the puck at his own blue line on Calof's goal. In that case you can't put any of the blame on Lehkonen, and need to factor in his work on the power-play goals, which, of course, plus-minus doesn't.
The teams will have a quick turnaround for the next contest, as Game Two will start at 9 AM Eastern on Sunday.