HELSINKI — Canada continued to spin its wheels as the preliminary round ended at the world junior hockey tournament, dropping a 5-2 decision to Sweden.
Canada will play Finland — the hosts and a powerhouse — on Saturday (11 a.m. Eastern) in a win-or-go-home quarter-final.
The outcome of the Canada-Sweden game was meaningless to the standings. Sweden had clinched first overall and Canada knew it was stuck in third before the puck was dropped Thursday.
But the loss was concerning given the Canadians have yet to play a complete game as coach Dave Lowry continued to juggle his lines. They finished their pool with two wins — against lowly Switzerland and Denmark — and two losses to Sweden and the United States.
Canada has had various problems getting on a roll here, from being physically outplayed and being too cute with the puck.
On Thursday, it was penalties that did in Canada. Sweden scored three times on the power play, twice early in the first period to establish a 2-0 lead.
Alexander Nylander scored the first goal, with Jake Virtanen off for roughing.
Nylander set up the second, by Gustav Forsling, with Anthony Beauvillier off for delaying the game.
Mitchell Stephens gave Canada some life, ripping in a rebound late in the first.
But with Brendan Perlini off for slashing, Adrian Kempe gave Sweden a 3-1 lead in the second period.
Anton Karlsson added to the Swedish lead in the third on a backhander while Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner scored late in the third — on a rare Canadian power play — but Sweden clinched the win with an empty-net goal by Rasmus Asplund.
It was Canada’s lowest win total in the four-game preliminary round since the 2001 tournament when Canada won twice, lost once and tied once. Canada managed bronze that year.
And it’s the first time Canada has lost twice in the preliminary round since 1998, when Canada went 2-2-0. Canada finished seventh then.
It was Sweden’s 10th win against Canada (against 22 losses and a tie) in the world junior tournament. The Swedes tie Russia (10) and the former Soviet Union (10) for the team as the most wins against Canada in the tournament’s history.
Canada last lost to Sweden in the 2011 tournament in Buffalo, 6-5 in a shootout. Canada last lost in regulation to Sweden in the 2008 tournament in Czech, 4-3.